Complacency, Risky Driving Behaviors Fuel Traffic Deaths
Although the official numbers have not been released yet, 2016 saw an estimated 40,000 traffic deaths, according to preliminary data released by the National Safety Council (NSC).
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That is a six percent increase from 2015 and a 14 percent increase from 2014, the most significant two-year increase in 53 years. Most shockingly, road deaths were on the decline for nearly a decade prior to 2014.
The NSC estimates that approximately 4.6 million people were injured and required medical care on U.S. roads in 2016, costing society nearly $432 billion.
What is causing the increase?
Researchers and safety experts have several theories, one of which is that people are simply driving more miles for work and pleasure due to the improving economy. However, because the number of deaths per miles driven has outpaced the increase in miles traveled, experts indicate that this cannot be the only reason for the recent increase.
Furthermore, human error is still the number one cause of car accidents, despite newer vehicles packing on more safety features than ever before, including rear-view cameras, blind-spot monitoring and emergency braking systems.
Increased distracted driving due to smartphones is a significant concern, despite the millions of dollars spent on advertising campaigns to prevent texting and driving. Checking apps and email while driving is a dangerous practice that is unfortunately very common.
A recent NSC survey provides some insight into the risky behaviors drivers engage in while behind the wheel. The study found that although 83 percent of drivers surveyed said that they believe safety is a concern on the roads, many still admitted to engaging in risky driving behaviors:
- 64 percent said they are comfortable speeding
- 47 percent said they regularly text manually or via voice controls while driving
- 13 percent claimed to be comfortable with driving while under the influence of marijuana
- 10 percent said they have driven after having too much to drink
According to NSC officials, these habits and a complacency in the belief that accidents are going to happen no matter what are killing Americans at a high rate. In order for traffic safety to improve, American motorists need to have a change of mind about the way we drive.