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After Long Decline, Traffic Deaths Again on the Rise

"These numbers are a wake-up call," warns Rosekind.

by on Nov.24, 2015

Government data suggest distracted driving is responsible for at least 10% of fatalities.

Traffic deaths spiked by 8% during the first half of the year, according to a new federal report, reversing a decade-long downward trend.

Officials point to a variety of factors that may be behind the unexpected increase, including both lower fuel prices and the improving economy. That has led to more Americans driving more frequently and for longer distances. A new AAA report, for example, indicates 42 million Americans will drive at least 42 miles over the coming Thanksgiving holiday.

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“These numbers are a wake-up call,” said Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Even Voice-Controlled Infotainment Systems Distract Drivers, Warns Study

Feds looking at impact of using systems.

by on Oct.26, 2015

Even using voice-controlled infotainment systems, drivers can be distracted for at least 15 seconds.

Federal regulators blame distracted driving for nearly one in 10 of the nation’s highway fatalities, and much of the focus is on motorists who text while driving. But a new survey warns that even when drivers use voice-controlled infotainment systems and keep both hands on the wheel, they can be dangerously distracted.

Even at 25 miles per hour, using a voice command to do something as simple as make a phone call can shift a driver’s attention away from the road for as long as 27 seconds. That’s the equivalent of driving the length of three football fields, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

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“The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.” (more…)

US Highway Deaths Heading for 8-Year High

Cheap gas, improving economy likely factors.

by on Aug.17, 2015

Highway fatalities have been rising fast, and an improved economy and cheap gas may be factors.

After years of decline, there’s been a sudden surge in highway fatalities in the U.S. this year, and if the current trend continues, the U.S. could see the roadway death toll rise to its highest level since 2007, according to the National Safety Council.

The financial impact has also risen sharply this year, reports the NSC, climbing by 24% during the first half of this year when deaths, injuries and property damage are factored in.

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“Follow the numbers: the trend we are seeing on our roadways is like a flashing red light – danger lies ahead,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.


July 4 Holiday Likely to be a Deadly One

National Safety Council predicts highest highway fatality rate in 7 years.

by on Jun.29, 2015

Highway deaths are expected to surge over the upcoming Independence Day holiday.

With highway fatalities already on the rise after years of steady decline, the upcoming Independence Day holiday could be a particularly deadly one.

As many as 409 Americans will be killed on the road during the long weekend, with another 49,500 injured, forecasts the National Safety Council. That would be the highest number for an Independence Day holiday since 2008 if the numbers prove accurate.

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“Drivers always need to be vigilant, but this weekend, focus on the safety of your family,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “A few precautions can help ensure a memorable weekend. Spending the holiday with family is preferable to spending time in the ER.”


Even Speeders Back Speed Laws, Finds New Survey

The thrill is gone?

by on Dec.16, 2013

A new study finds Americans have a paradoxical attitude about speeding.

While millions of Americans routinely admit to driving above the speed limit, nearly half of all motorists say speeding is a problem and the vast majority – including many chronic speeders – believe “everyone should obey the speed limits because it’s the law, according to a new national survey.

Despite increasing efforts to crack down on speeding, federal data suggest that it remains responsible for as much as a third of the traffic fatalities on roads each year, or nearly 10,000 lives annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has released results of its third “National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior.”

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“The need for speed should never trump the need for safe and responsible driving,” David Strickland, the outgoing NHTSA administrator, said in a statement. “Motorists who drive at excessive speeds put themselves and others at an increased risk of being involved in a crash and possibly of being injured or killed.”

The study, which relied on telephone interviews involving more than 6,000 U.S. households in 2011, found Americans hold a paradoxical attitude on speeding.  It found that a significant percentage of Americans routinely drive at or over the speed limit – something most motorists likely can confirm anecdotally on almost any American freeway.


Feds Push Makers to Speed New Safety Tech into Cars

An era of "zero-collisions."

by on Nov.18, 2013

A prototype Nissan Leaf autonomous vehicle negotiates a simulated urban intersection, complete with cross traffic.

After a brief surge last year, federal data show that highway deaths are again on a sharp decline, falling an estimated 4.2% during the first half of this year. And while an ongoing crackdown on drunk driving is one factor for the 40% decline in fatalities over the last four decades, improved vehicle design and advanced safety hardware also are getting much of the credit.

That’s led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to encourage the industry to fast-track new technical advances that many experts now believe could eventually lead to an era of zero fatalities.


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“Safety is our top priority and we can achieve remarkable progress in reducing injuries and fatalities in this era of innovation and technology,” proclaimed Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is asking for “real solutions that can significantly address safety issues that have plagued this nation for decades,” as part of NHTSA’s new “Significant and Seamless” initiative.


US Traffic Fatalities Fall Sharply During 1st Half of 2013

Road deaths down 4.2% – reversing upward surge in 2012.

by on Oct.31, 2013

Experts credit better safety technology for at least some of the reduction in highway fatalities.

U.S. traffic deaths fell by 4.2% during the first half of 2013, according to preliminary figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reversing an unexpected upward surge the previous year.

The federal safety agency still estimated that 15,470 people died in all forms of motor vehicle crashes between January 1 and June 30, though that was down from the 16,150 fatalities reported during the first half of 2012. Some states, such as Ohio, are on track to have their lowest death tolls since record keeping began on a per-mile basis.

Measured in terms of fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, the rate for the first six months of the year dipped to 1.06, down from 1.10 fatalities during the first half of 2012.

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There had been some concern that the total fatality count might rise as the economy recovers, a traditional pattern that reflects more Americans taking to the road – particularly during the dangerous rush hour periods.  Government and industry officials are studying the surprising reversal to see what has contributed, instead, to the decline in deaths.


Highway Deaths Dip After Unexpected Jump in 2012

Fatalities near 60-year low.

by on Aug.29, 2013

Highway fatalities are again on the decline.

After an unexpected and worrisome jump in road deaths last year, preliminary federal figures indicate the numbers fell sharply during the first three months of 2013.

The government also lowered its road death count for all of 2012, though the adjusted numbers were still the worst in four years and marked the first time since 2005 that fatalities rose for a full year.  An increase in pedestrian and motorcycle deaths – particularly in states like Michigan where helmet laws have been dropped – contributed to last year’s unexpected surge.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 7,200 people died in traffic accidents during the first quarter of 2013.  By comparison, 9,300 perished during the first three months of 2012, according to revised NHTSA numbers.  It’s the second quarter in a row that fatalities declined and a preliminary reversal of last year’s unexpected jump in the highway fatality rate.


After Decade-Long Decline, Highway Deaths Suddenly Surge

Motorists take to the road again after long recession.

by on Dec.21, 2012

Highway fatalities have suddenly reversed a near decade-long decline. The question is why?

After a decade of decline, U.S. highway fatalities appear to be on the upswing again, according to new government data, with the death total climbing faster than at any time since 1975.

The 7.1% jump during the first nine months of the year has safety experts scrambling for an explanation, though at least some of the blame may go to the economy, more Americans driving longer distances as their personal financial situation has improved, post-recession.

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“There is a relationship between the economy, gas prices, driving and fatalities,” noted Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “However, the increase can’t be explained solely because of an improving economy and more discretionary driving.”


Highway Deaths Drop to 62-Year-Low

Seatbelts, more advanced technology -- and improved emergency care all contributed.

by on Dec.10, 2012

Highway fatalities continued declining - and improved emergency care has clearly played a factor.

Traffic fatalities fell to their lowest level in more than six decades last year, according to a new analysis by federal regulators, continuing a decade-long decline – though there are some preliminary signs that the death rate may have turned back upward in 2012.

The ongoing decline appears to show the benefits of the latest advanced safety technology, like electronic stability control – some of which can “compensate for poor judgment” — as well as increased usage of simpler, time-tested devices such as seatbelts. Experts also give credit to increased enforcement, especially the crackdown on drunk driving.  Yet another factor, though, may also be the medical knowledge gained from two long wars.

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“The latest numbers show how the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners, coupled with significant advances in technology and continued public education, can really make a difference on our roadways,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to build on this progress by continuing to tackle head-on issues like seat belt use, drunk driving, and driver distraction.”