The toll — 1.36 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled — has been called “a national crisis” by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
That said, riding in cars is currently far safer than it was in 1980 when traffic deaths hit an all-time peak of 3.36 deaths per 100 million miles traveled.
The history of auto safety is one of pivotal inventions and fierce political battles over what automakers should have to build into their cars and what people should be compelled to do while on the road.
In past years — before those inventions and regulatory feuds — vehicle safety was mostly an afterthought, while today the three-point seatbelt, child safety seats and airbags are ubiquitous.
Automakers such as Honda and General Motors aspire to sell cars that either eliminate traffic deaths or crashes altogether, with inventors shifting their attention toward new technologies like driver assistance systems.
Indeed, some new driver assistance tools, including automatic emergency braking and pedestrian-detection systems, excite safety advocates.
But such modern systems also raise a new set of safety questions. And the recent uptick in traffic deaths shows that despite all the progress, riding in cars is still not without its risks.
Watch the video to learn more.
Read More: How the U.S. determines what makes a car safe