In the United States’ deadliest driving year since 2007, traffic deaths increased by 14% during the first six months as compared with the same period last year, and serious injuries rose by 30%, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Nearly 19,000 people were killed in traffic crashes between January and June, and more than 2.2 million were seriously injured, NSC writes.
Texting and Speed Limits
In an article entitled, “What’s behind big rise in traffic deaths in 2015?” appearing in The Christian Science Monitor, Joan Lowy writes for Associated Press that although drunk driving and teen deaths have decreased and seatbelt use is up, more drivers are texting, and more states are increasing speed limits. The NSC, a nonprofit created by Congress to promote safety, said the period of the rise in car accidents does not even include the months of July and August, two months that are historically among the most dangerous for traffic deaths, Lowy writes.
Deborah A.P. Hersman, president of the NSC, told Lowy that if the trend keeps up, 2015 could have more traffic deaths than 2007, when there were nearly 44,000. Lowy quotes Hersman: “As a safety professional, it’s not just disappointing but heartbreaking to see the numbers trending in the wrong direction.”
Stats by State
According to an NSC chart, there were 36 more traffic fatalities in Colorado from January through June of 2015 than for the same period in 2014, representing an 18% increase, from 200 to 236. Looking at the chart, Oregon had the largest increase in traffic deaths, 59%, whereas South Dakota had a 34% decrease. Texas, California, and Florida had the largest number of traffic deaths during the first six months of this year, respectively: 1,643; 1,566; and 1,441, according to the chart.
The NSC says that the higher death and injury toll could be caused by many factors, among those the improving economy, lower gas prices, and lower unemployment rates, all adding up to the fact that more people are taking to the roads. Hersman said although cars have more safety features than ever before, often drivers do not use them — sometimes because they do not know how to, Lowy writes.
Several studies have found that cell phone use contributed to vehicle accidents, as Lowy writes. And the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that a recent study confirmed what the National Traffic Safety Board and others have said, that hands-free calling can be as dangerous as hands-on calling, Lowy writes.
The NSC offers the following tips for driving safety:
- Make sure every passenger buckles up on every trip
- Designate an alcohol- and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation
- Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue
- Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free
- Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits. Teens are three times as likely to crash as more experienced drivers.
- Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. My Car Does What can help drivers understand the ins and outs of features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.