Traffic deaths up sharply in the first half of 2015

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The drop in gas prices results in more people getting into road and traffic accidents. That and other factors like speeding and distraction from use of cell phones while driving have caused the number of traffic accidents to dramatically rise, in just the first six months of this year. Traffic deaths were up 14 percent nationally and injuries were up by a third, according to data gathered by the National Safety Council. 

Looking at the results,almost 19,000 people across the country lost their lives in traffic accidents through June, and the tally doesn’t include two of the historically highest months for traffic deaths, July and August, said the council, a nonprofit organization created by Congress to promote safety. If this continues, traffic deaths this year could  be more than 40,000 for the first time since 2007, when there were nearly 44,000 deaths.  The increases began in the last quarter of 2014 and have been recorded consistently through each month of this year.  The nation’s driving steadily increased for 15 consecutive months through May, the Transportation Department said in July. Americans drove 1.26 trillion miles in the first five months of 2015, passing the previous record, 1.23 trillion, set in May 2007. However, the overall increase in vehicle mileage this year through May is 3.4 percent, far less than the 14 percent increase in deaths.  Naturally, the distances traveled by motor vehicles have gone up. Compared to 2014, average gas prices are 30 percent lower this year. They are projected to remain stable until 2016. Generally, traffic has increased, since more people have been able to afford driving, travelling longer distances and taking vacations. Reports also show that 25 percent of the reported injuries and deaths on the road were due to distractions from use of cell phones while driving. 50 percent of the time, speed is a factor.  Other safety trends are at play as well. In recent decades, deaths due to crashes involving drunken driving have dropped from about 50 percent of fatalities to about 30 percent. Teen driving deaths are also down, and seatbelt use is up. And cars have more safety technology than ever, although drivers sometimes don’t use it or don’t know how to use it.  On the other hand, a growing number of states are raising speed limits, and everywhere drivers are distracted by cellphone calls and text messages. The council estimated in a report this spring that a quarter of all crashes involve cellphone use. Besides fatal crashes, that includes injury-only and property damage-only crashes.

While the economy is currently improving, the costs that arise from deaths and serious injuries have gone up. Death claims, injuries and property damage within just the first six months of this year have now risen to $152 billion, making costs 24 percent higher than in 2014. 

The NSC suggests ways to avoid adding to the already high number or traffic deaths and injuries this year. It reminds drivers and passengers to always fasten their trusty seatbelts, make sure the designated driver is alcohol and drug free, never use cell phones behind the wheel and even hands-free, learn the safety systems of vehicles and get enough rest and regular breaks so driving long distances do not get tiring. The NSC also noted that teens are three times more likely to be in an accident, compared with expert drivers. It emphasizes on staying engaged in teens’ driving habits.

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