The Associated Press reports that data gathered by the National Safety Council (NSC) shows traffic accident fatalities up for the first half of 2015 — reversing what had been a trend toward fewer car crash deaths. For the last several years, traffic accident fatalities had been steadily declining on a national level, due in part to public safety campaigns, tougher state traffic laws, high gas prices keeping cars in park, and enhanced vehicle safety features.
According to the NSC, traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased by 14 percent and injuries rose by one-third between January and June 2015. Traffic safety experts theorize that an improving economy, cheaper gas prices enticing more motorists to hit the road, and an increase in distracted driving are among the chief causes. The numbers are cause for concern….
NSC reports that some 19,000 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in the first six months of 2015; that figure does not include data for July, which is historically the deadliest month on U.S. roadways. A council spokesperson told the AP that traffic deaths this year could exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007, a year that saw 44,000 deaths from motor vehicle accidents.
The good news is that in recent years, in Maryland and other states, drunk driving crashes have been on the decline. Nationally, drunk driving is now linked to 30 percent of all car crash fatalities, down from 50 percent. Teen car crash deaths are also down and seatbelt use is up.
The bad news is distracted driving accidents are on the rise. Despite laws regulating cell phone usage while driving, too many fatal accidents occur where drivers are talking or texting on their cell phones. The NSC reports that distracted driving is roaring up on alcohol consumption and speeding as the top causes of fatal accidents. According to the council’s annual report, Injury Facts 2015, the three biggest causes of fatalities on the road include alcohol (30.8 percent), speeding (30 percent), and distracted driving (26 percent).
Despite Maryland’s own tough distracted driving laws (both handheld cell phone use and texting while driving are illegal and considered primary offenses) — take a drive around any of our city streets or highways, and you’re apt to see people with their heads down texting, or driving and gabbing on their cell phones. Safety experts now believe that even talking on a hands-free cell phone is still a dangerous form of distracted driving — as the driver’s focus is on the conversation, not the road. Hang up, keep your eyes on the road and be careful out there. There’s too much going on behind the wheel besides people actually focused on driving.
Traffic deaths up sharply in first 6 months of this year
Newsday Aug. 17, 2015
Safety on the Road
National Safety Council Retrieved Aug. 30, 2015
State Distracted Driving Laws
Governors Highway Safety Association Aug. 2015