For the first time in over eight years, Americans face a frightening reality. The auto fatality rate rises in 2015, reversing an eight year-long trend of fewer car deaths.
The Deadliest Traffic Year Since 2007
The reasons behind retracing the auto fatality rate back to 2007 levels are different than they were eight years ago. The top two reasons, alcohol or drug impaired driving and speeding remain the same as in 2007. A deadly new factor in auto fatality rates rising is distracted driving that may account for as many as 27% of all accidents, according to one study.
Increased Distractions Moving The Auto Fatality Rate Higher
Today’s car features create many new distractions to take drivers’ attention off the road. These new features, and how drivers have adapted to using them while driving, negatively impact the auto fatality rate rises.
In-car infotainment systems are more varied and more complex than a simple car radio. The added complexity distracts drivers while they drive. These infotainment systems go by many names: MyFordTouch, Ford Sync (powered by Microsoft), Cadillac Cue, Mazda Connect, Chevrolet MyLink, Mercedes DriveStyle, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, just to name a few.
Directly linked to a car’s infotainment system is hands-free telephoning. Car manufacturers compete to provide drivers with the easiest-to-use hands-free telephoning interface. This may be a misconception, however. The public is unaware that hands-free driving is dangerous. One AAA study shows that drivers take as much as 27 seconds to fully refocus on driving after completing a hands-free telephone call.
In-car Wi-Fi is a new feature introduced this year that may add to driver distraction. No studies on in-car Wi-Fi have been conducted to show whether it increases distractions. One can reasonably conclude, however, that having Wi-Fi in the car will prompt drivers as well as passengers to use it with calamitous results.
One Major Culprit Behind Distracted Driving Pushing Auto Fatality Rates Higher
Drivers using mobile phones in cars for telephoning (whether hands-free or not) and texting significantly decreases drivers’ attention to driving and increases the likelihood of an accident.
Other distractions caused by mobile phones may not be as obvious, but are equally dangerous. They include: using email, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram while driving and even conducting video chats, shooting videos and snapping selfies behind the wheel.
The National Safety Council estimates that texting while driving raises the likelihood of a crash by eight times, and that crashes involving texting or talking on a cellphone (hands-free or handheld) account for 27 percent of all accidents.
To find how pervasive the problem is, AT&T conducted a survey on drivers’ behavior using mobile phones while driving. The survey results released by AT&T showed that roughly 70 percent of respondents use their smartphones while driving. Texting was most common, with 61 percent saying they’ve read, sent or replied to texts while driving.
The Financial Impact Behind Increased Auto Accidents Inn 2015
The United States is on track to have its deadliest traffic year since 2007, with nearly 19,000 people killed as a result of motor vehicle accidents between January and June 2015—a 14 percent increase over the same period last year. The toll on the victims’ families is immeasurable.
The other costs behind these accidents are measurable, however. The National Safety Council calculates the nearly 2.3 million “serious injuries,” (which the NSC defines as those requiring medical consultation), up 30 percent with an estimated cost of these crashes—including medical expenses, wage and productivity losses and property damage—increasing 24 percent, to roughly $152 billion.
States Bucking The Trend Of Auto Fatality Rates Rising
It’s not all bad news, however. 14 states and Washington, D.C. showed a decrease in driving deaths. Those states are: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. This is particularly good news for Alabama, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee that are states located in the “Death Belt” of the United States.