All you have to do is watch a few car ads these days to realize that the big buzzwords driving marketing and sales have less and less to do with "toughness" and "speed" and far more to do with safety.
Popular commercials show features of modern "safe cars" in their best light. Ads demonstrate cars can safely parallel park with ease and show smart cars stopping on their own to avoid hitting other vehicles or pedestrians.
However, according to government reports, traffic deaths actually jumped almost 6 percent between 2015 and 2016. If cars are getting smarter and safer, why are the roads getting more dangerous?
There are indications that more than one factor is at play.
Economic conditions are partly at play
Gasoline has gotten cheaper again. That's made driving more affordable compared to a few years back when gas was so high that people tried to combine all their errands in one trip and limited their driving to necessities.
Jobs are also more plentiful, which means more people are driving to and from those jobs.
Both economic factors are likely contributing to the increase in fatal car accidents because there are simply more people on the road. People already likely to be on the road are also traveling more and further out than when the economy was weaker and gas prices were higher.
Poor choices are the real culprits
However, experts like those at the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) tend to agree that it's simply poor choices on the parts of drivers that are behind the majority of accidents.
In fact, NHTSA believes that 94 percent of serious roadway accidents could be avoided if drivers made better choices.
Some driver behavior has improved -- there are finally fewer people texting and driving and tired drivers are taking the hint to get off the road -- but more people are speeding, skipping their seat belts and drinking before driving.
Experts think drivers may be putting too much faith in the ability of modern cars to protect them from serious harm.
It's important not to be fooled into a false sense of complacency while driving in a modern vehicle. Even if you're being careful, there's no guarantee other drivers around you are. Keeping that in mind may help you avoid an unnecessary motor vehicle accident in the future.