Will 2016 set a record for deadliest driving? Traffic deaths were up 9% in the first half of 2016, according to the National Safety Council’s preliminary estimate, pushing the country into a near driving crisis. The NHTSA estimates the fatalities are even higher than that—10% more than the first half of 2015. What will be done to stop it?
In the first six months of 2016, there have been 19,100 traffic deaths, an amount higher than the 17,530 motor vehicle fatalities that occurred during the first half of 2015, and much above 2014’s 16,251. So far, there were also 2.2 million people seriously injured.
This continues the upward trend over the past couple of years, with fatalities increasing each year since 2014. Last year was the largest year-over-year increase in 50 years. We can’t let this year be another surge: Car crash fatalities are preventable deaths.
The states who have seen the largest percentage increase in motor-vehicle deaths since 2014 are Vermont with 82%, Florida with 43% and Georgia with 34%. Vermont’s increase is the highest in the country, how much higher are we willing to let any of these percentages grow?
Something needs to be done.
These statistics come along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) announcement of the final fatality count for 2015 with a 7.2% increase over 2014. Following this announcement, White House and DOT issued a public call to action, asking for help from nonprofits, tech companies and even citizens. They want ideas, analysis, anything that will help break the cycle.
While experts realize that there are, in fact, more drivers out on the road, thanks to a stronger economy and low gas prices, the motor vehicles fatalities are increasing even when one considers the number of drivers to miles driven.
Why? What’s the deal?
One known cause is distraction. Drivers are distracted—texting, eating, talking on the phone, using apps behind the wheel—putting thousands of other drivers at risk each day.
This behavior shouldn’t be accepted though. The point is that we’re growing complacent with the amount of deaths occurring on the road each day. We’re getting comfortable with using our phones while driving and watching others do the same. Instead of feeling frustration at the behavior and motivation to decrease future motor fatalities, many drivers have normalized the bad driving habit. Despite the emotional distracted driving PSAs we see, it’s not until it happens to us—until it’s a friend, a brother, a car accident that truly startles us—that the issue becomes real.
Now’s the time for change.
Why are we willing to accept preventable deaths? Let the technology do its job. Uber and Google are competing for the first fully autonomous driverless cars, as well as several other contenders, but we don’t yet know when those will appear commercially or if they’ll even be available in time to save lives. The government only released general guidelines about how regulation might operate with the self-driving cars a few months ago. While Uber is testing self-driving vehicles for customers in Pittsburgh, their widespread use is still far off. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t tech we can turn to, right now.
Government organizations are now asking for our help with this epidemic. They’re turning to the public in a sort of surrender, what can we do? What will reach us? What will make us change?
Maybe it’s a safe-driving app that blocks your phone use while driving, or one that measures your current skills and gives you ways to improve. Perhaps, it’s upgrading to driver-assist technology in your car for precaution, a safe-driving competition with friends or a pledge at family dinner. What will work for you? State fines and stricter laws will only do so much.
Let’s all face the problem at hand and take personal responsibility for ourselves. It’s up to us now.