Is Car Insurance Making The Roads More Dangerous?

October 21st 2019 – By: William Larsen – Civilians News – “News For All Views”

– Is Car Insurance Making The Roads MORE DANGEROUS? –

(Statistical reference link):

“In 2018, an estimated 40,000 people (*in the US) lost their lives due to car crashes – a 1% decline from 2017 (40,231 deaths) and 2016 (40,327 deaths).  About 4.5 million people were seriously injured in car crashes last year – also a 1% decrease over 2017.”

(Statistical reference link):

“Unintentional injuries accounted for 5.4 percent of all US deaths last year,  while motor vehicle crashes accounted for 23.9 percent of those deaths.

*A little over 1%.

It’s no secret that people die on the road…..

In fact, growing up in the state of Michigan auto-fatalities caused more serious injuries than just about anything else, where I grew up. That is to say, it didn’t take very many people passing away in my hometown, or undergoing serious auto-related injuries, for me to understand the danger on today’s roads.

Nevertheless, the question I pose today is not IF the roads are safe…… but HOW safe? And do things like, “auto-insurance,” make our roads safer? Or does auto-insurance actually make the roads more dangerous?

And to answer those questions, I am going to be pulling some statistics. For the record… I don’t like to use statistics…. especially in today’s, “internet age,” because I find that most online based statistics lack credibility. However… I am going to pull statistics in this article and then I’m going to formulate my argument, essentially explaining why I believe that, “auto insurance,” is making America’s roads LESS SAFE…. or… more dangerous, depending on your point of view.

 

So here we go;

Let’s analyze a couple of historical reference points, in order to essentially describe, “how safe America’s roads are today,” versus how safe the roads were before auto insurance mandates. Also, in order to assess, “road safety,” I used the, “auto-accident fatalities statistic.”

Unfortunately… the debate over, “mandated auto insurance,” started all the way back in 1927, making traffic data before mandated auto insurance… difficult to find, or analyze. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that insurance mandates were even enforced back then, henceforth highway safety before 1927 is difficult to analyze and compare because it was so long ago. Nevertheless, in states like California… auto insurance mandates were not heavily enforced until 1984…. meaning, that while I was unable to find a lot of data comparing the safety on our roads, before the creation of auto insurance mandates in 1927,  there was some data to compare safety records before auto insurance was enforced….. because most states hadn’t begun actually enforcing auto insurance mandates until closer to 1980.

So let’s chalk out a few reference points and compare highway safety… for both before… and after…. auto insurance mandates became heavily enforced in the US. For example; California began enforcing proof of auto insurance during traffic stops, back in 1984 and most other states began enforcing, “proof of auto insurance,” between 1965 and 1975, according to Wikipedia. This time period, I’ve then used to assess, “traffic safety,” both before and after, auto insurance mandates. I used the year 1975 to represent, “before auto insurance mandates,” although this is not an exact cut-off, for when auto insurance mandates took affect. So to be fair, despite not all 50 states enforcing auto insurance in 1974, it seems that a majority of the states began enforcing it… right around this time… So I chose the year 1975 to compare, “the before and after,” of traffic safety statistics, in this case auto fatalities, which represent, “road safety.” To reiterate: the assumption here is that MOST states started enforcing mandatory auto insurance, around the year 1975, which is then the year that I’m using to compare traffic safety statistics, “both before and after,” auto insurance was mandated and those auto insurance mandates were, “enforced.”

Until 1956, when the New York legislature passed their compulsory insurance law, Massachusetts was the only state in the U.S. that required drivers to get insurance before registration. North Carolina followed suit in 1957 and then in the 1960’s and 1970’s numerous other states passed similar compulsory insurance laws. Google statistics.

So, I’ve chosen the year 1975 to compare traffic data because the year 1974 has some statistical anomalies, as well as being right around…. the time when most states started actually enforcing mandatory auto insurance. 1975, has a statistical anomaly, in that the year 1974 had a 17% decline in auto fatalities, a huge outlier in terms of decreasing traffic fatalities, from year to year. I think that this was outlying statistic is probably caused by a majority of the states adopting mandatory auto insurance policies, during this year, hence, why I chose the year 1975 to compare data before and after, auto insurance mandates. (Ten years before California started actually enforcing auto insurance mandates, which goes to show that 1975 isn’t a perfect cut off date, for assessing nation-wide traffic safety.) That is to say, 1975 is right around when most states seem to have begun enforcing auto insurance mandates, but it’s not an exact cut-off as to when ALL 50 states began enforcing it, in fact several states enforced auto insurance mandates earlier than others, and I’m using national traffic fatalities, despite not all 50 states adopting auto insurance mandates, in the 1970’s, or in 1974.

Again, my hypothesis going into this, is that; people grow complacent because of their auto insurance, they begin to expect their insurance provider to repair their vehicle (if damaged) and that because of auto insurance, there’s less liability on the driver today, which is actually making American roads more dangerous……

To reiterate, my hypothesis is that drivers are becoming overly reliant on auto insurance and have become naive to the dangers of the road, because of their reliance on auto insurance. This, “new found carelessness,” due to a reliance on the insurance industry, I believe is now making our roads MORE DANGEROUS… than if we never had auto insurance at all.

However, statistically this is a difficult point to make…. and to be honest, the statistics don’t support this hypothesis, both because the data is difficult to compare and in some cases almost impossible to find….. Nevertheless, there is some data on this, and again the statistics don’t entirely back up my hypothesis. Furthermore, if most states adopted mandatory auto insurance…. around the year 1975, then in the 2 decades since that legislation took effect, auto fatalities sharply declined, signalling a positive effect from the insurance industry at the very onset of auto insurance mandates (from 1975 to 1990). (Again worth noting however, California implemented mandatory auto insurance coverage in 1984, ten years after 1975, as did several other states, meaning the data doesn’t entirely correlate.)

But let’s break down the numbers….

And again… remember the difficulty here is;

1) Calculating the statistical safety of the road, before car insurance was mandated. Here we’re going to be using the, “auto fatality statistics,” to determine, “road safety.”

And;

2) Pinpointing, “car insurance itself,” as the main culprit, in determining why there is a deviation in traffic fatality statistics and whether that deviation is in fact… due to, “car insurance mandates taking effect, post 1975,” versus other factors, such as; increased safety standards at that time, drunk driving enforcement and other worldly things, which might have also changed highway safety standards during that time. (Does the % of auto fatality statistics change, post 1975, because of auto insurance mandates?)

Basically, let’s examine auto fatalities before 1975 vs after 1975 (when most auto insurance mandates took effect) and see if there’s a change in the auto fatalities, which in essence represents the, “safety,” of America’s roads…… Then let’s call this statistic, “a rough estimate of road safety, before and after, mandated auto insurance.” It’s not a perfect statistical analysis but let’s crunch some numbers. 

(https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_fatality_rate_in_U.S._by_year)(https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/yearly-snapshot)

 Year    Deaths        VMT– Vehicle  miles traveled  (billions)  Fatalities per 100 million VMT Population  Fatalities per 100,000 population Change in per capita fatalities from previous year

Total American auto fatalities, in 1960  =

1960 36,399 718 5.06 180,671,158 20.15 -1.1%

/ US Population…… in 1960 =

1960 186,720,571

1960 Auto fatalities / Total US population = 36,399/ 180,671,158

= 0.000201%

 

Total American auto fatalities, in 1970  =

1970 52,627 1,109 4.74 205,052,174 25.67 -2.9%

/ US Population…… in 1970 =

1970 209,513,341

1970 Auto fatalities / Total US population = 52,627 / 205,052,174

= 0.000256%

 

Total American auto fatalities, in 1980  =

1980 51,091 1,527 3.35 227,224,681 22.48 -1.0%

/ US Population…… in 1980 =

1980 229,476,354

1980 Auto fatalities / Total US population = 51,091 / 227,224,681

= 0.0002248%

 

Total American auto fatalities, in 1990  =

1990 44,599 2,144 2.08 249,464,396 17.88 -3.2%

/ US Population…… in 1990 =

1990 252,120,309

1990 Auto fatalities / Total US population = 44,599 / 249,464,396

= 0.0001787%

 

Total American auto fatalities, in 2000  =

2000 41,945 2,747 1.53 282,216,952 14.86 -2.9%

/ US Population…… in 2000 = 282,216,952

2000 Auto fatalities / Total US population = 41,945 / 282,216,952

= 0.000148%

 

Total American auto fatalities, in 2010  =

2010 32,999 2,967 1.11 309,326,000 10.67 -3.5%

/ US Population…… in 2010 = 309,326,000

2010 Auto fatalities / Total US population = 32,999 / 309,326,000

= .0001066%

 

Now, what jumps out to me, right away…… is that….. the three websites I used (for statistical referencing) had different population totals…… which already gives you some level of, “error,” to take into account, when analyzing these statistics. *I used the first population total for calculating the % of auto fatalities vs total population statistic.

Also, what stands out to me is;

  • The death rate from automobile accidents, steadily rises from 1905 to 1940.
  • The, “percentage of fatalities vs US population as a whole statistic,” declines steadily since the early 1970’s, although that could also be attributed to population growth, seeing as the number of fatalities stayed relatively stagnant. Total fatalities from auto accidents, ranges from 40k to 50k deaths, in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s, and hovers to around 30k annual auto fatalities today, which isn’t a huge deviation over a 50 year span. This represents a meager 10-20k death difference, from the 1940’s to the 1990’s.
  • The number of fatalities per capita, steadily rises until the 1970’s and then barely declines 10 years later in 1980, when the number of auto deaths starts to slowly tick down, creating safer transit and, “safer roads,” throughout the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s.
  • The 1980’s and 2000’s see the most drastic decline in auto fatalities. The decline in fatalities during the 1980’s I assume is most likely a direct result of law enforcement, who were initially enforcing mandated insurance policies at that time. However, this down turn in auto fatalities during the 1980’s could also be attributed to other factors including the enforcement of drunk driving legislation and improvements to automobile safety, IE air bags.
  • I believe that the down-turn in auto fatalities during the 1980’s is most likely due to the INITIAL impacts of auto insurance mandates, ALTERNATIVELY HOWEVER, I believe that the decline in auto fatalities during the 2000’s decade is more likely due to increased vehicle safety standards.
  • In 1974, the death rate due to automobile accidents goes down 17%… after previously rising for 5 straight years before that, as well as throughout most of the early 1900’s. That’s why I chose 1975 as a good, “before and after,” cutoff, for assessing fatalities both before and after, the auto insurance mandates took effect, which I assume represents that 17% decline in fatalities, in 1975.
1974 45,196 Fatalities 1,280 3.53 213,853,928 Total US Population 21.13 -17.1%

This to me, indicates that 1974 was when auto insurance mandates really began taking effect…….

But OK, let’s put, “the number crunching aside,” as statistics never really tell the whole story anyway and as it seems that some of this data….. is rather difficult to find these days….. (*Ideally I’d just compare California’s driving statistics before 1984 and after 1984, when proof of insurance during traffic stops became mandated, however I can’t find that data.

But in conclusion….. if you go by, “deaths per capita,” it appears as though the roads have steadily gotten safer since 1970, however, I find this notion that our roads have steadily become safer since 1970, is semi flawed, since auto fatalities have also remained somewhat stagnant, in sum, between 1940 and today.

That is to say, the deviation is only 20k deaths from 1970 to today……… which to me is low and somewhat shocking. Isn’t it crazy that we still allow 30k people to die from auto fatalities, per year, in today’s day and age?

Regardless, the assertion that; “auto insurance is making the roads LESS SAFE,” is NOT currently supported by these statistics.

In conclusion, these nationwide statistics, don’t back my hypothesis that auto insurance is making America’s roads less safe, as deaths have fallen in recent decades …. In fact, the statistics point to the assertion that our roads have become safer, decade after decade, with almost a 100% decline in auto fatalities per capita, since 1980. However, I would still argue, in the face of these traffic statistics, that my initial hypothesis (that auto insurance is actually making America’s roads LESS SAFE) is in fact still true, despite not having any statistical backing, in this article.

And I don’t like to oppose statistics…… it makes me feel like a climate change denier, going against the statistics, but even though it appears auto fatalities declined since insurance mandates began taking effect (between 1975 and 1985), I still feel that the initial POSITIVE impact of mandated auto insurance, was lost over time, and that today, auto insurance is actually making drivers more careless….. DESPITE auto fatalities declining, both during the initial years of mandated auto insurance and throughout the past 3 decades.

And my rationale for maintaining this opinion, in spite of these statistics……. is that;

  1. Fatalities remain fairly stagnant from 1950 to 2010, in sum…. There’s only a 30k death deviation between 1970 and 2010 and totals of 33,000 deaths in 2010 and 32,000 deaths in 1950….. which to me, emphasizes how this issue is overlooked.
  2. While it’s fairly difficult to ascertain an exact, “date,” when insurance mandates took effect, in order to compare safety before and after auto insurance was mandated…… the 1980’s do show a fairly sharp decline in auto fatalities, which can properly be assumed to have been attributed to increased law enforcement, for things like auto insurance and drinking and driving, as well as adding air bags to the vehicles. While it’s impossible (with this data) to simply point to auto insurance mandates and say, “this is why the decline in fatalities occurred in the 1980’s,” it’s also somewhat fair to assume that, “increased policing of auto insurance mandates,” did impact the INITIAL decline in auto fatalities, during the 1980’s.

That is to say; while auto insurance mandates initially probably contributed to a decline in auto related deaths, during the 1980’s, I believe that now, auto insurance is actually INCREASING the death toll. I also believe that auto insurance mandates today, are making drivers feel less, “liable,” for damages they might incur/inflict while driving and henceforth, I believe that auto insurance today, is making modern drivers more careless… I also believe that in the 1980’s, when insurance mandates initially took effect, that auto insurance did initially make the roads, “safer,” but that in today’s day and age auto insurance is having the exact opposite effect on drivers, making them more ignorant because of their reliance on auto insurance coverage.

Although again, the statistics concerning this topic are difficult to forge into a statistical argument.

-William Larsen