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Why a stronger economy may be bad news for U.S. drivers

The mid-2000s were a financially difficult time for many Americans. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, officially the Great Recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009. However, across the U.S. and throughout Rhode Island, many people experienced the ripple effects of these troubled economic times for much longer as nearly every part of their daily lives were affected.

During this timeframe, the U.S. unemployment rate climbed to a high of 10 percent and millions of employers and employees alike saw their monthly profits and incomes plummet. While the vast majority of national statistics related to the Great Recession are overwhelming negative, one positive result of the recession manifested in the form of an overall drop in the number of motor vehicle accidents and fatalities.

The most-recent jobs report released by the government indicates that the U.S. unemployment rate is currently at 5 percent, while Rhode Island's unemployment rate is slightly higher at 5.2 percent. As more Americans and Rhode Islanders alike head back to work; more are also taking vacations, going to the movies and enjoying a dinner out on the town. Consequently, 2015 appears to be first time in many years that the number of U.S. traffic fatalities increased.

This estimate is based on preliminary data from the first six months of 2015 which indicates that there’s been an eight percent increase in the number of traffic fatalities nationwide. While the government won't likely release hard numbers related to 2015 traffic fatalities until later this year, it appears as though U.S. drivers and passengers may end up paying the ultimate price during these more prosperous economic times.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, "Stronger economy can be bad news for highway safety," Dec. 10, 2015

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