While there are a number of theories as to why the nation’s traffic death toll is on the rise, one fact remains – fatalities are up. In a recent report, the National Safety Council announced that traffic deaths and serious injuries in the U.S. are on a pace to rise for the first time in nearly a decade. This translates into higher payouts for auto insurance companies who have to cover policyholders for medical treatment and property damage.
According to the NSC, if the current trend covering the first six months of this year continues, traffic fatalities on the national level will exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007 and deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled will increase as well.
Despite driving more crashworthy vehicles with high-tech electronic safety features, the numbers keep going up. Of course, those who believe that “speed kills” blame the trend reversal on recent moves by many states to raise highway speed limits. But, NSC president Deborah Hershman suggests the finger should be pointed at two other factors – low fuel prices – and, not surprisingly – cellphones.
Low fuel prices have put more Americans on the road than ever. As a result, miles driven in the U.S. increased for 15 consecutive months through May and set an all-time record for travel in the first five months of the year at 1.26 trillion miles, which surpassed the previous record that had stood since 2007.
However, some are of the opinion that the 3.4% increase in miles traveled doesn’t fully explain the 14% jump in fatalities for the first half of this year. This is where America’s love affair with cellphone’s could be to blame. Let’s face it – cellphone mania has taken over our everyday lives – not to mention making us less attentive and more distracted behind the wheel.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety asserts on its website that “states continue to raise speed limits despite clear evidence that doing so leads to more deaths” – but, according to many experts the data gathered is deceptive. Instead, the real culprit is thought to be cellphones. Their chronic use to call and text while we drive likely has a more direct link to the new rise in traffic fatalities and injuries. In fact, an NSC study earlier this year indicated that cellphone use is a factor in at least one quarter of all traffic accidents.