A report issued by the National Safety Council (NSC) shows that traffic deaths rose sharply in the first six months of 2015, but while everyone is scrambling to figure out why, no one seems to be quite sure.
Highway fatalities have generally decreased every year, but for some reason this year the number of fatalities is a whopping 14% higher than it was during the same time period last year. Deborah Hersman, president of the NSC, has offered a few possible explanations as to what may have caused the increase, but even she is scratching her head at how the numbers got so high.
According to Hersman, one factor could be that more people are on the roads this year than last. Americans collectively drove a record-setting 1.26 trillion miles in the first five months of 2015, but that’s only a 3.4% increase over last year – a far cry from the 14% increase in highway deaths.
What makes the increase so puzzling is that many negative factors have been becoming less and less common. Drunk driving was a factor in 30% of all traffic deaths, down from 50%. Teen driver deaths are down and seatbelt use is up, both of which would help the death toll to decrease.
Not all changes have been for the better however. Distracted driving (particularly cell phone use) is up – it’s now estimated that a quarter of all crashes involve a driver using a cell phone. The NSC also points to increased speed limits as a possible contributor to fatalities.
If highway fatalities continue at the current rate, over 40,000 people will lose their lives by the end of the year, a benchmark that has not been crossed since 2007.
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