A summer marked by low gas prices has led to a jump in the number of miles Americans are driving. Unfortunately, it also appears to be leading to a significant increase in traffic deaths, according to a recent Yahoo! News article.
“The National Safety Council reported this week that traffic deaths and serious injuries in the US are on a pace to rise for the first time in nearly a decade. If the trend for the first six months of this year continues, the NSC says traffic fatalities in the nation will exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007 and deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled will also increase,” the news service reports. The key lies in the last part of that sentence – indicating that the number of on-road deaths is not merely a function of the greater number of miles being driven. The article notes that when compared to 2007 the number of mile Americans drive has increased by 3.4% but in the first six months of 2015 alone the number of traffic fatalities has jumped by 14%.
According to the article a number of factors contribute to this – such as higher speed limits – but one might also think that the steadily improving safety gear in modern cars and trucks would, at least to some extent, mitigate that. The big thing that has changed for the worse, according to the study, is the steady rise in distracted driving in general and cellphone use in particular despite laws and educational campaigns here in Oregon and elsewhere designed to curb the practice. From a legal perspective this is especially significant since it, in turn, means that an increasingly large number of drivers are placing themselves at risk of wrongful death charges in the event of an accident.
The article notes that “an NSC study earlier this year indicated cellphone use is a factor in one quarter of all accidents.” As a Portland distracted driving and wrongful death attorney I am disappointed to read this analysis but not particularly surprised. Distracted driving in its many (and growing forms) is one of those problems that everyone says they take seriously but which too few people are willing to do anything about. Too many of us rationalize our own use of distracting technology while behind the wheel even as we criticize the same actions in others. Only when we all acknowledge this problem as the serious issue it is – and treat it as such – will the trends identified by the Safety Council’s study be reversed.
Yahoo! News: Traffic Deaths on the Rise – What’s Really to Blame?