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*New data from the U.S. government suggests that the nation will see a record number of vehicle fatalities this year. That’s because last year, the U.S. saw the largest increase in vehicle fatalities in almost 50 years.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently estimated that 27,875 individuals were killed as a result of motor vehicle crashes in just the first nine months of 2016. The data from 2016 revealed an 8% increase from the same time frame in 2015.

Even though roads in the U.S. have significantly improved in safety thanks to inventions like seat belts and airbags, officials are still concerned that the number of vehicle fatalities will continue to rise in the short term. Fatalities were expected to rise coming out of the Great Recession, but nobody expected that they would rise so high.

car accidentSome experts have speculated that distracted driving and warmer weather have both been contributing to the high number of traffic fatalities in the last two years. Unfortunately, these are mere speculations, and officials agree that more data and analysis of U.S. roads is required to determine the cause of the severe uptick in traffic accidents.

The issue of self-driving vehicles is one that is often raised in the discussion about road safety. While advocates for the autonomous technology argue that it would make roads significantly safer, others argue the exact opposite.

A recent study from research company Deloitte has revealed that the majority of Americans simply don’t trust self-driving technology. Deloitte surveyed people from several countries and discovered that approximately 74% of Americans don’t believe that autonomous cars will be safe on America’s roads.

self-driving car

By Driving_Google_Self-Driving_Car.jpg: Steve Jurvetson derivative work: Mariordo [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Only 47% of U.S. respondents said they would feel comfortable with a traditional auto manufacturer making an autonomous vehicle, and even more surprising, only 20% said they trust Silicon Valley technology.

Despite America’s uncertainty about autonomous vehicles, the auto industry is ready for them. Some companies have even gone so far as to get into discussions with different state legislatures over test driving regulations for these self-driving vehicles.

There’s a lot at stake, as the auto industry remains one of the biggest industries in the country. Traffic marking paint alone had an industry value of approximately $454 million in 2014, and millions of Americans are completely dependent on their cars.

Despite many American’s reluctance to see driverless cars in the lane next to them, the future of America’s roads may be in the hands of autonomous vehicles.