By: Morgan Gaynor
Until recently, the trend for deaths from traffic crashes was uniformly encouraging. For a period of about forty years ending in 2014, traffic deaths declined steadily. Unfortunately, that trend reversed itself in 2015, with deaths spiking at the greatest percentage rate in 50 years. The death rate has now returned to a level last seen in 2009.
It would be nice to think that 2015 was a complete anomaly. Unfortunately, available data for 2016 indicates yet another increase from 2015. The head of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls this “a crisis that needs to be addressed now.”
What’s going on? Most experts believe the discouraging jump in deaths is due to – you guessed it – distracted driving.
As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Car makers added new hands free technologies in the last decade to prevent distraction caused by fumbling with phones or tablets. Unfortunately, that didn’t completely solve the problem. That’s because using technology while driving still takes your mind off the road, even if it doesn’t require you to physically pick up a phone or tablet. To put it another way, the cognitive demands of a phone conversation are the same even when it’s conducted through a Bluetooth.
Because most of us drive so often, we tend to think of it as a routine activity. The truth is that driving is a complex physical and mental task that requires vigilance. You never know when driving will require you to make a crucial split-second decision. Our brains simply aren’t wired to give driving our complete attention when we’re trying to do other things.
In the long run, driverless technologies such as Tesla’s Autopilot system may begin to help with this problem. However, those technologies are still too far off to prevent driving deaths and injuries in the next several years. They may also end up having problems of their own, such as susceptibility to hacking and system failures.
That leaves us with some old-fashioned advice for today’s drivers. To prevent being part of the increased carnage around us, please consider the following suggestions:
- Stay off your phone when you’re in motion. If a conversation is really necessary, pull over and have it then.
- Consider public transportation, and fare-paying services like taxis and Uber.
- Plan. Figure out which music you’re going to listen to before you start your car and stick with your choice. When you’re going somewhere unfamiliar, learn the major points along the route instead of just trying to follow navigational instructions as they’re given.
- Have fun at your holiday celebrations. Just don’t drive home.
These steps may increase your chances of enjoying these holidays, and help you avoid contributing to some unfortunate statistics.Should you or a loved one ever require legal assistance after being injured in a car accident that was not your fault.
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