Is the Traffic Death Spike, Like the Homicide Increase, a Ferguson Effect?
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From the New York Times:
U.S. Traffic Deaths Rise for a Second Straight Year By NEAL E. BOUDETTE FEB. 15, 2017

Last year, traffic deaths increased 6 percent, to 40,200, according to estimates released on Wednesday by the National Safety Council. The two-year increase — 14 percent — is the largest in more than a half a century.

… According to its estimates, 40,200 people died in accidents involving motor vehicles in 2016, a 6 percent rise from the year before.

… The 2016 total comes after a 7 percent rise in 2015 and means the two-year increase — 14 percent — is the largest in more than a half a century. …

Part of the increase is believed to stem from the improving economy, which has led Americans to drive more miles for both work and pleasure. But safety advocates say that explains only part of the trend because the number of deaths as a percentage of miles driven is also increasing.

They also point to data suggesting an increase in distracted driving. While cars and phones now offer advanced voice controls and other features intended to keep drivers’ eyes on the road, apps like Facebook, Google Maps, Snapchat and others have created new temptations that drivers and passengers find hard to resist.

“It’s not just talking on the phone that’s a problem today,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “You now have all these other apps that people can use on their phones.”

Another concern I have is that the high tech safety equipment on new cars might be backfiring for some reason. This could be tested by looking at what kind of cars are having these fatal accidents.
Government officials and safety advocates contend, however, that more than anything else, the increase in deaths has been caused by more lenient enforcement of seatbelt, drunken driving and speeding regulations by authorities and a reluctance by lawmakers to pass more restrictive measures.
Okay, but that just sounds like officials saying what they are officially supposed to say.
A patchwork of state laws leaves many areas where drivers can choose not to buckle up, with little likelihood of being stopped.
Okay but would be a more prima facie plausible argument for why death rates on the roads aren’t falling as fast, not why they have been going up relative to 2014.
Only 18 states have laws requiring seatbelts for both front and rear occupants and categorize not wearing them as a primary offense — meaning drivers can be pulled over for that alone. In 15 states, failure to wear a seatbelt in front seats is only a secondary offense — drivers cannot be given tickets unless they are pulled over for other violations.

“It’s still the same things that are killing drivers — belts, booze and speed,” Mr. Adkins said.

No doubt, but why the change since 2014?
In Alabama, steady budget cuts have resulted in a decline in the number of troopers patrolling the state’s 103,000 miles of highways.
Okay, there’s finally a change in inputs. But, say, governments in California had a lot more money in 2016 than a few years before.
…“I think speeding is the No. 1 problem. There are times of the day when we only have one or two troopers on duty in a county, so you can speed, and there’s no one there to deter it.”
Maybe what’s happening is that we’re seeing another manifestation of the Ferguson Effect. As you’ll recall, as the Obama Administration’s narrative about Ferguson turned out to be Fake News, the Administration ran a massive investigation of the Ferguson Police Department and found … that Ferguson was a Speed Trap!

For awhile this was the worst thing in the history of the world and the Justice Department used their Speed Trap to take over the Ferguson police department.

So, if the Obama Administration is out to abolish Speed Traps, the cops have a remedy: America has plenty of donut shops.

With the huge rise in homicide rates since 2014, it’s quite clear that the spikes are often centered in cities with massive Black Lives Matter agitation. In contrast, I haven’t seen any data about where road deaths are up. But it deserves looking into.

Whatever the causes, they shouldn’t be a mystery for too long because insurance companies have a lot of data on vehicle fatalities.

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