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US Gun Deaths On Pace to Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 2015

3-year-old shoots himself in headDeaths caused by firearms could soon surpass traffic fatalities as the leading cause of non-medical deaths in the United States.

Bloomberg reports that cars and guns have long been the top non-medical killers in the United States, but due to plummeting traffic fatalities and a surge in gun-related deaths, firearms are projected to become the top killer by 2015.

Motor vehicle deaths have fell 22 percent between 2005 and 2010 due to advances in vehicle safety, restrictions on young drivers, seat belt law enforcement and laws prohibiting the use of hand-held mobile phones.

By contrast, “we’ve made policy decisions that have had the impact of making the widest array of firearms available to the widest array of people under the widest array of conditions,” says Garen Wintemute of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.

As a result, annual US gun deaths are on target to hit nearly 33,000 by 2015, while auto accidents will likely kill around 32,000 that same year, based on the 10-year average trend.

Despite the recent wave of high-profile shooting deaths, most notably last Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, gun deaths actually peaked in 1993, when 37,666 people in the United States were killed by guns. By contrast, in 2000 guns claimed 28,393 US lives.

Traffic fatalities peaked in 1979, when 53,524 people died from auto accidents. Traffic deaths hit their lowest annual total since 1949 last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At 1.1 deaths for every 100 million miles driven, the rate of traffic deaths was the lowest ever recorded in 2011.

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