Cause for Concern
After years of tougher drunk-driving laws and a massive awareness campaign, the public’s attitude about intoxicated motoring shifted and traffic deaths decreased. After decades of overall improvement in driving safety, traffic fatalities are again on the rise. Deaths increased nationwide 8% last year – the largest year-to-year increase in a half-century. For the first six months of 2016, driving fatalities are up 9 percent over the same period last year, the National Safety Council reported. The rebounding economy plays a large role, but safety experts say there is a new danger driving part of the increase: distracted driving.
Traffic Deaths and Distracted Driving
Drivers now are not just talking on cellphones — they’re texting, using apps to follow directions, even playing Pokemon Go. Stopping this epidemic of distracted driving will take a societal shift to render such behavior socially unacceptable. Experts warn the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. Traffic fatalities this year are on a pace to reach 40,000 – the highest total since 2007. That’s a vast improvement from about 55,000 deaths annually in the 1970’s. But, this reverses years of declines that have been attributed to air bags, less drunken driving and more seat belt use.
A Hopeful Future
In the long run, experts hope that safety improvements like automatic collision avoidance systems and adaptive headlights that see better around curves will cut down on the most common crashes. Some of those systems are available now, and others will be more common in the future. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety estimated that such systems could cut fatalities significantly. Warnings for when a vehicle leaves its lane could also save lives by alerting drivers before they drift off the road. Touch-free voice technology for phones may seem like an additional solution, but studies have shown that can be even more mentally distracting in some cases. Perhaps, if we can increase our awareness on the road, traffic deaths will decrease accordingly.