Warmer temperatures caused by climate change are likely responsible for more deaths on the road, a study claims.
Researchers from Yale University found that temperatures in the US increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit from 2014 to 2015 and, simultaneously, traffic collision deaths increased seven percent.
Experts believe this rate increased not only because more people drive on warmer days but also because people are more likely to be out about on foot on those days.
The study confirms that, while driving and using a cell phone can be fatal, natural factors, such as temperatures and rainfall levels, are beginning to contribute to the problem.
A study has found that traffic collision deaths went up seven percent in 2015 and researchers believe the increase is due to the effects of climate change
THE DANGERS OF MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES IN THE US
Even though one of the main safety initiatives of the US government in the twentieth century was reducing fatal car accidents, tens of thousands of US residents die from them each year.
Specifically, 32,000 people are killed and two million are injured annually.
In 2013, the car crash fatality rate in the US was double what it is in other high-income countries.
The rate of people in the US who buckle up in the front seat is lower than the rates in comparable countries.
And drunk driving contributes to the problem: a third of fatal US car crashes involve a drunk driver.
Similarly, a third of fatal car crashes involve a speeding driver.
The CDC recommends following these rules to lower the car crash death rate in the US:
- Always wear a seat belt, no matter where you are sitting in a car
- Never drive when you have consumed alcohol or drugs
- Help others refrain from driving after consuming alcohol or drugs
- Obey speed limit traffic laws
After learning that the rate of traffic collision deaths saw a sharp rise in 2015 for the first time in 35 years, safety officials thought that cell phones were to blame.
But a national survey of observed cell phone use by drivers found no change in use between 2014 and 2015.
This led Yale researcher Dr Leon Robertson to think the warming of the atmosphere might be behind the figures.
As part of his investigation, Dr Robertson looked at two sets of data: the annual miles driven per person in urban areas and the risk of death in the 100 most densely populated counties in the US.
He found that vehicles were driven an average of 60 extra miles per year per person for each degree increase in temperature.
Similarly, vehicles were driven an average of 66 additional miles for each additional inch of rainfall.
The death rate was higher in warmer areas and in those with higher rainfall levels.
Researchers on Dr Robertson’s team studied the link between the average number of miles driven and average temperatures in urban areas and found that drivers nationwide would have driven 13.6 billion extra miles as a result of the 1.5 degree increase.
The study also found that the death rate was lower in households with higher average income, which researchers said could be because these drivers are able to afford more up to date models equipped with more safety features.
The trend reflected in the study is only supposed to go up, study researchers said.
Dr Robertson said: ‘The correlation of mileage and temperature suggests a classic vicious circle whereby higher temperatures equal more miles driven, leading to more CO2 emissions, which in turn lead to higher temperatures.’
He clarified that this, in turn, means more deaths, saying: ‘As temperatures continue to increase from heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, road deaths will likely increase more than expected unless there are major mitigating countermeasures.’