For most of us who drive, it never really sinks in when you get behind that wheel that what you’re about to do, i.e. drive out onto the street or highway could be dangerous. That’s especially true because of other drivers. The National Safety Council (NSC) says traffic fatalities are up 9 percent for the first six months of this year. The NSC says an estimated 19,100 people have been killed on U.S. roads since January – enough to fill 382 school buses – and 2.2 million were seriously injured. The total estimated cost of these deaths and injuries is $205 billion.
“We are expecting one of the most dangerous Labor Day holidays in recent years,” says Ken Kolosh of the NSC. “We are projecting 438 deaths during the Labor Day holiday period.”
Safety officials say the upward trend began in late 2014 and shows no signs of decreasing. Last winter, the National Safety Council issued its largest year-over-year percentage increase in 50 years, when it estimated fatalities had jumped 8 percent in 2015 compared to 2014.
In Georgia, the number of fatalities is up 34 percent since 2014. Harris Blackwood, the director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety says it’s alarming and people should know that plenty of law enforcement will be out patrolling area roads over the long Labor Day weekend. He also has a request of drivers. “And we need people to put down those phones,” says Blackwood.
There have been 701 traffic fatalities in Georgie during the first six moths of 2016. Blackwood says the number of alcohol related deaths is about the same (1 in 4) but says what’s up are accidents and deaths due to distracted driving. “But where we’re seeing that big increase is road departures, lane departures..head on collisions symptomatic of texting and driving,” he says.
Both the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the National Safety Council says distracted driver normally occurs in younger drivers, but that there’s now an uptick in older drivers as well. It seems even some of them are texting while behind the wheel. “The second you start texting you stop driving, that’s how serious it is, your eyes are off the road you’re not paying attention to what’s going on and then all of a sudden you look up and you’re heading head on into another car or heading off the road and so many people have been killed that way,” says Blackwood. “We have evidence to back this up. It’s dangerous and people need to not answer their phones while driving and definitely not be texting when they’re behind the wheel.”
In addition to Georgia, other states that have shown substantial increases in fatalities since 2014 are Florida (43 percent), Indiana (33 percent), California (31 percent increase), North Carolina (26 percent), Illinois (24 percent) and Kentucky (24 percent).
“Our complacency is killing us,” says Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “One hundred deaths every day should outrage us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death.”
To help ensure safety, the National Safety Council recommends drivers:
• Make sure every passenger buckles up on every trip
• Designate an alcohol and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation
• Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue
• Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free
• Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits, as teens are three times as likely to crash as more experienced drivers
• Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. My Car Does What can help drivers understand features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.