[Shaw Media File Photo]
Another theory on fatality trends might suggest the section cutting through I-80 should have seen an increase in deadly crashes as an improved local economy brought more semitrailers onto the highway.
“Crashes are going up in most places – not everywhere, but in most places,” said Russ Rader, senior vice president for communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Rader said that seat-belt use, safer cars and lower levels of drinking and driving all contribute to an overall decline in traffic deaths. But periodic shifts in nationwide fatalities tend to follow the economy.
“The traffic death numbers are following a pattern that has been documented over time,” he said. “When the economy is on the upswing, crashes go up.”
The institute lists 1,003 fatal crashes nationwide for 2016, the highest number since 2007, when there were 1,127 fatal crashes as the recession was about to begin. Traffic fatalities then generally declined until 2011. Since then, they have been heading upward again.
A better economy puts more vehicles on the road. Rader said people take longer trips, and they even engage in riskier driving.
Rader was not commenting on what was happening on I-80. But nationally, he said, fatal crashes often follow economic trends.
“Traffic deaths go down when we have recessions,” he said. “They tend to increase when the economy recovers.”