Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Grim reminder

The good news is that the economy is on an upswing.  The accompanying bad news is that the chance of dying in a vehicle crash has gone up bit as a result.  While improved vehicle design and safety technology has increased chances of surviving an auto accident, the improving economy has increased our chances of having one.

Lower fuel prices, increased spendable income and growing consumer confidence have led drivers to take to the roadways more often and in more dangerous ways.  A stronger economy and reduced unemployment make everyone feel better, but that bliss can affect what, where, when and how we drive.

Per statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it holds that drivers are generally safer in big vehicles as opposed to small ones.  IIHS reports that the death rate per million vehicles registered varies greatly, from as few as nil for certain larger SUVs to over 100 for some minicars.

Of course, since the biggest safety feature is the competence of the driver, one can improve their odds of accident avoidance through heightened vigilance and defensive driving.  Early recognition of emergency situations and reacting decisively to them is a safe-driving must.

The summer and early fall are the most dangerous times of the year according to IIHS studies.  Fatalities are also higher on weekends and in the late afternoon and evenings, while Independence Day and New Year’s Day have the highest traffic death toll of any single date.

With a bustling economy, drivers are more likely to take vacation trips during those vulnerable holidays.  It’s essentially a numbers game — with more vehicles on the road, the chances of conflict rise.

Pleasure driving is statistically riskier than driving for the purpose of commuting and running errands, and such “joy rides” are more plentiful during a strong economy.  Riskier, discretionary driving — for example going out to dinner or travelling for vacation — is affected by economic fluctuations.  Research indicates that a decline in the unemployment rate from 6 percent to 5 percent results in a 2 percent jump in vehicle miles travelled and an equivalent rise in road deaths.

Economic conditions even affect how fast people drive.  Citation records show that both speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol are elevated during a strong economy.


Again, following defensive driving practices is a driver’s best protection from trouble.  Noting and accommodating for others’ errors regardless of who has the right of way is paramount.  When a traffic death occurs, it makes no difference to the deceased who was at fault for the accident.

Being aware of the heightened risks occurring during certain days and times should help intensify a drivers’ defensive behavior.  With the advent of summer, vacations and road trips are imminent, so it’s a good time to assess one’s defensive readiness.

Successful readiness cannot include driving while or after consuming alcohol, speeding, following too closely, or road rage.  If you are observant, and not speeding or otherwise breaking laws, you’ll be better able to successfully deal with those who are.

Let’s celebrate the improved state of the economy while still using due care and caution when operating our automobiles.  If we keep our cars and trucks well maintained and maintain the proper state of mind while at the wheel, maybe we can refute the notion that we are less safe as the economy grows.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at