Measures to decrease the number of vehicle-related accidents
Motor vehicle safety courses
Nationwide improvements of highways and of traffic regulation has helped make driving safer. In 1924 Herbert Hoover, then secretary of commerce, called the first National Conference on Street and Highway Safety. Since that time the national motor-vehicle death rate (based on mileage) has dropped about two thirds.
Some states and cities have reduced their motor-vehicle death rate even more. In 1971 the nation recorded a mileage rate death rate (number of deaths per hundred million vehicle-miles) of 4.7 - the lowest in its history.
Engineers make traffic surveys, widen highways, straighten curves, put up warning signs at danger spots, and build divided highways with controlled entrances and exits. They also construct separate grades at highway intersections and at rail-highway crossings. Other safety measures include stop-and-go lights, one-way streets, stop streets, safety islands, low speed limits in business and school areas, and special rules for trucks.
City and state police departments have devised new preventive measures by scientific study of accident causes. Some cities compel traffic violators to attend "safety schools" directed by the police. To reduce danger from cars in poor mechanical condition, many states and cities require tests for brakes, lights and other equipment. Cars and tires now are built so soundly that mechanical failure is rare except through misuse or neglect on the part of the driver.
Educating and Testing Drivers
Thousands of organizations are helping educate the public. Newspapers call attention to traffic hazards and print driving lessons. Television and radio programs warn drivers and pedestrians of carelessness. Insurance companies, gasoline distributors, and automobile clubs promote safe driving by booklets, advertisements, posters and emblems mounted on cars.
Through the Highway Users Federation for Safety and Mobility, the automobile industry contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to schols and organizations for safety training. Parent-teacher associations are especially active in promoting safety education in the schools. The Red Cross, 4-H Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire Girls also do a great amount of educational work.
Despite these efforts, traffic accidents cause about 40 percent of all fatalities annually. Many of these accidents can be prevented by safety education. This is shown by the records of trained commercial drivers, whose accident death rate has dropped during periods when the death rate for drivers of private vehicles increased. In many states drivers must pass examinations in driving skills and physical fitness in order to obtain a license.
In 1971 more than 54,000 deaths were attributed to automobile accidents. The death rate was 26.5 per 100,000 persons. Despite the continuing emphasis on driving education the death rate has been steadily increasing in recent years.