The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) wants to know if global warming will increase the risk of fatal car crashes.
“To be precise, 7.2% more people died in traffic-related accidents in 2015 than in 2014,” reads a DOT blog post calling for independent analyses of traffic accident data. “This unfortunate data point breaks a recent historical trend of fewer deaths occurring per year.”
The blog post, written by DJ Patil of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Mark Rosekind of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, then asks a series of “key questions” on the future of car crashes they want answered by groups taking up their call to analyze 2015 data.
Patil and Rosekind also ask: “How might climate change increase the risk of fatal crashes in a community?”
Global warming isn’t really something people think of when pondering the future of fatal car crashes. Most would think fatal car crashes are largely a function of safe driving and safer cars, not a warming climate.
But to these government bureaucrats, it’s a totally relevant question.
“From his first day in office, the President has been a leading voice to ensure that the transformative power of data and technology is used to help address some of our toughest challenges,” reads the DOT blog post.
“The journey toward zero deaths on our roads will be a long one, but data will provide the guiding lights to take us there,” the DOT post reads.
DOT officials are worried because 2015 saw more than 39,000 deaths from car accidents, a 7.2 percent increase from 2014. Last year’s spike in deaths breaks a long streak in year-to-year declines in car crash deaths.
“Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said of the car crash figures.
“Solving this problem will take teamwork, so we’re issuing a call to action and asking researchers, safety experts, data scientists, and the public to analyze the fatality data and help find ways to prevent these tragedies,” he said.
One of the biggest drivers of fatal car accidents was “distraction affected crashes,” which increased 8.8 percent from 2014 levels to 3,477 deaths. And nearly half of the people killed in 2015 were not wearing seatbelts or any sort of restraints.
Still, traffic deaths are down 25 percent from a decade ago, according to DOT data. In 2005, more than 42,000 people died in car accidents.
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