When the government first started tracking the statistics back in 1913, there were just around 4,200 deaths caused by traffic accidents. Between then and 2019, more than 100 years later, that number increased by more than 800%, reaching a total of just over 39,000 deaths.
Obviously, cars are used much differently today than they were in 1913, and there are a lot more of them. It’s not necessarily fair to compare the two eras. In fact, traffic deaths actually peaked in the 1970s and have been trending down ever since. Things are getting safer even though there are more cars and more drivers than ever.
But will we ever get to zero traffic deaths? Technically, that would be the goal, and safety procedures are set in place to try to reduce the death toll as much as possible. But is a world where there are no traffic deaths even realistically possible? We would be hard-pressed to even get back down to the 4,200 deaths that were seen in 1913.
Does the answer lie in autonomous cars?
One thing to consider is that the vast majority of traffic accidents are simply caused by human error. This means that most of those deaths happen just because someone made a mistake, whether it’s the person who died or the person who hit them.
This suggests that autonomous cars may be able to drastically reduce the death toll on the roads. If you can take human error out of the equation, you can stop the majority of accidents.
However, even self-driving cars are unlikely to be perfect. They can still make mistakes. They will do it at a much lower rate than humans are already making mistakes now, so these cars may be a humongous safety improvement, but it’s hard to imagine that the software and hardware combination will be so good that it will never cause an accident. There have already been cases of self-driving cars hitting pedestrians and cyclists, for instance. These types of things would still happen.
What rights do you have after a crash?
Since it is unlikely that the roads will ever be perfectly safe, it is very important to know your rights. If you get injured or lose a loved one, you may have a right to compensation.