08172017Headline:

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2016 May be the Worst in Nearly 10 Years for Highway Safety

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Many safety experts have been worried for several months about traffic accidents. Mid-year last year, the numbers seemed to be climbing.

Now that 2016 is in the rear-view mirror, the numbers are nearly final, and they’re not looking good. Turns out that last year may be one of the worst we’ve had in a long time when it comes to motor vehicle deaths.

Surveys Show Traffic Accidents are Up

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was concerned about this back in October 2016. That month, they released traffic safety statistics for the first half of the year showing there were nearly 17,775 deaths, up 10.4 percent from the previous year.

Apparently, they had reason to be concerned. The National Safety Council (NSC) issued a press release on February 15, 2017, in which they estimated that as many as 40,000 people died on the roadways last year. If those numbers hold true, that would mark a six-percent increase over 2015 and a 14 percent increase over 2014.

In fact, the estimate shows that 2016 was the deadliest year in terms of motor vehicle crashes since 2007, with an estimated 4.6 million people injured badly enough to require medical attention.

Americans Complacent About Driving Safety?

Noting the increase in crashes, researchers determined to find out what was causing it. It seems that though most drivers are concerned about safety on the road, many are still engaging in unsafe behaviors.

According to a recent NSC survey, 64 percent of drivers said they were comfortable speeding, while nearly half said they were comfortable texting either manually or through voice controls. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that at 55 mph, an average text takes the eyes off the road long enough to cover the length of a football field and that each day in the U.S., over 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.

A smaller percentage of drivers admitted to being comfortable driving while impaired by marijuana (13 percent) or driving after having too much alcohol (10 percent).

“Our complacency is killing us,” said NSC President and CEO Deborah A. P. Hersman in the press release. “The U.S. lags the rest of the developed world in addressing highway fatalities. We know what needs to be done; we just haven’t done it.”

NSC Recommends Steps to Improve Safety on the Roads

As a result of their findings, the NSC recommended several steps to increase safety on the roads. These included:

  • Mandating ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers
  • Extending laws to ban all cellphone use, including hands-free, when behind the wheel
  • Primary enforcement of seat belt laws
  • The use of automated enforcement techniques to catch speeders
  • Standardizing and accelerating safety technologies with life-saving potential, including automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, and adaptive headlights