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 for that many people to die, in my hometown, or to undergo serious auto-related injuries, for me to understand that there are dangers on the road.

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 driving more dangerous?

And to answer those questions.. I am going to be pulling out some statistics for today’s article. Also, for the record… I don’t like to use these types of statistics…. especially in today’s, “internet age,” because I find that most statistics lack credibility…. nevertheless… I am going to be pulling statistics for this article and then formulating my argument. Whereby, for this article my argument is that I believe, “auto insurance,” is essentially making America’s roads LESS SAFE…. or more dangerous, depending upon your point of view.

So to start… let’s analyze a couple of historical reference points which describe, “how safe America’s roads are today, versus, how safe the roads were before auto insurance mandates.”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 auto 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, states like California… have had auto insurance mandates that were not heavily enforced until 1984…. which means, that while I was unable to find a lot of data comparing the safety of our roads before the creation of auto insurance in 1927,  there was some data to compare safety records before auto insurance was enforced….. because most states hadn’t begun enforcing auto insurance mandates until closer to 1980.

So, for example; California began enforcing proof of auto insurance during traffic stops, 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 mandates in 1974, it seems that a majority of the states had in fact began enforcing them, in 1974… or 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,” for this article.

So….. to reiterate: the assumption here is that MOST states started enforcing auto insurance mandates around the year 1975, which is the year that I’m using to compare traffic safety statistics, “for before and after,” auto insurance was enforced on the roads….

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.

I’ve also chosen the year 1975 to compare traffic data because the year 1974 has statistical anomalies, pointing to increased enforcement of traffic safety…… as well as….. being right around the time when most states began enforcing mandatory auto insurance. To re-iterate, 1975 has a statistical anomaly because in that this year, 1974 had a 17% decline in auto fatalities, a huge outlier in terms of decreasing traffic fatalities, from year to year.

And I think that this 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, however, 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 to enforcing them.

Nevertheless, my hypothesis going into this… is that; people grow complacent because of their auto insurance, they typically then begin to expect their auto-insurance provider to repair their vehicle (if and when it’s damaged) and then because of that insurance… there’s less liability on the driver today, which is making driver’s less careful and more careless behind the wheel. 

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 also believe is now making our roads MORE DANGEROUS… than if we had 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 because the data is both; difficult to compare but also, in some cases almost impossible to find….. Nevertheless, there is some data to support this theory. 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).

But let’s break down the numbers….

And again… remember the difficulty here is;

1) Calculating the statistical safety of the roads, before insurance was mandated.

And;

2) Pinpointing, “car insurance itself,” as the main culprit in determining why there is a deviation in traffic fatality statistics.

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…… After that, then let’s call this statistic, “a rough estimate of our road’s safety, before and after mandated auto insurance.” *And again, 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 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;

  • 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 from 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, yet hovers to around 30k annual auto fatalities today, which isn’t a huge deviation over a 50 year span. Basically, this represents a meager 10-20k death difference, from the 1940’s to the 1990’s, representing very little change in auto-safety, over a 50 year span.
  • The number of fatalities per capita, steadily rises until the 1970’s and then barely declines over the following 10 years, into 1980, when the number of auto deaths starts to slowly trickle down, creating safer transit and, “safer roads,” throughout the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s.
  • The auto fatalities however, barely decline from 2000-2001, signalling a stall in auto-safety measures.
  • The 1980’s and 2000’s see the most drastic decline in auto fatalities. The decline in auto fatalities during the 1980’s I assume is most likely due to mandated insurance policies, at that time. However, this down tick 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 legalized auto insurance mandates, ALTERNATIVELY, HOWEVER, I also believe that the decline in auto fatalities during the 2000’s decade is more likely due to the increased vehicle safety standards of that time. Whereby, I find that auto insurance mandates in the 1980’s had an effect on fatalities, in essence meaning that policy over road safety, DUI and things of that nature, created a downturn in fatalities. Yet, during the 2000’s, I believe this downturn in fatalities…. is more attributed 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%

So in conclusion, in spite of these statistics…. I’d now like to mention that I still believe auto insurance mandates are making American roads LESS SAFE, today.

Auto fatalities remained fairly stagnant from 1950 to 2010… in sum…. which means there were only 30k deaths, in deviation…. from 1970 to 2010 and the totals of 33,000 deaths in 2010……. and then 32,000 deaths in 1950….. signal , “mandated auto insurance vs non auto mandated auto insurance,” is often overlooked.

Furthermore; while auto insurance mandates probably initially contributed to a decline in auto related deaths, during the 1980’s, I now believe that auto insurance mandates are INCREASING the death toll. Meanwhile, I also believe that auto insurance mandates today….. are making drivers feel LESS SAFE and LESS LIABLE for damages that they might incur/inflict…. while driving today…. So, in conclusion I believe that auto insurance mandates… are now making American roads LESS SAFE and modern drivers more careless!

-William Larsen