Smartphones, teenage driving and distractions cause more accidents

regionsThere is good news and bad news for those driving on roads. The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported there was  slight decline in traffic deaths during 2014. However, an increase in estimated fatalities during the first six months of this year shows that there are dangerous driving habits that are increasing accidents.

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The 2015 fatality estimate is up 8.1% from the same period last year, and the fatality rate rose by 4.4 percent which could be a troubling departure from a general downward trend.

NHTSA experts noted that job growth and low fuel prices could be a factor, not only in increased driving overall, but in increased leisure driving and driving by young people, which can contribute to higher fatality rates.

“The increase in smartphones in our hands is so significant, there’s no question that has to play some role. But we don’t have enough information yet to determine how big a role,” said Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator.

There have been significant increases some areas of the country as much as 15% in the southern states and 16$ in the Great Lakes States (see figure above).

Additional 2014 crash data show:

  • Drunk driving crashes continue to represent roughly one-third of fatalities, resulting in 9,967 deaths in 2014.
  • Distracted driving accounted for 10 percent of all crash fatalities, killing 3,179 people in 2014.
  • Drowsy driving accounted for 2.6 percent of all crash fatalities; at least 846 people died in these crashes in 2014.
  • Nearly half (49%) of passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts.
  • The number of motorcyclists killed was far higher in states without strong helmet laws, resulting in 1,565 lives lost in 2014.
  • Cyclist deaths declined by 2.3 percent, but pedestrian deaths rose by 3.1 percent from the previous year. In 2014, there were 726 cyclists and 4,884 pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes.

NHTSA has launched a series of safety initiatives in recent months, including efforts to speed technology innovations that can improve safety and the agency’s first comprehensive effort to fight drowsy driving.

Data for 2014 from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) show that while overall road deaths declined only slightly, it was the safest year on record for passenger vehicle occupants: 21,022 Americans died in vehicles in 2014, the lowest number since FARS began collecting data in 1975. While cyclist deaths also declined, the number of pedestrians killed rose by 3.1 percent from 2013.

Other trends remained constant.

  • Deaths in drunk driving crashes continue to represent roughly one-third of fatalities
  • Approximately half of all vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts
  • Deaths of motorcyclists without helmets remained far higher in states without strong helmet laws
  • Speeding was a factor in more than one in four deaths.
  • NHTSA research shows that in an estimated 94 percent of crashes, the critical cause is a human factor. In contrast, vehicle-related factors are the critical reason in about 2 percent of crashes.