The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that traffic deaths across the U.S. jumped another 10 percent the first half of the year, following a seven percent increase the previous year. NHTSA and other safety groups fear the numbers will be even higher for the second half of 2016 due to increased driving and warm weather. NHTSA says we are at a crisis level that needs immediate action.
The crisis is more than statistics; it involves mothers, fathers, grandparents and children who will never again celebrate the holidays or the next family gathering. Some of these heart breaking stories include:
- 35 year old John T. Gordon, a law enforcement officer who was struck and killed while riding his motorcycle by a young man in a truck who was texting when he swerved into oncoming traffic
- Five year old Xzavier Davis-Bilbo who was hit and killed crossing the street by a young woman who was texting and driving
- 61 year old Linda Doyle who was killed by a young driver talking on a cell phone who ran a red light and smashed into her vehicle
- Nine year old Erica Forney who was fatally run over while riding her bike by a neighbor who had looked down at her cell phone and never saw the girl
What is surprising is that these tragedies come as new safety features – autonomous breaking, lane change warnings and rear view cameras – are now available in more vehicles. Unfortunately, human error is the cause of 94 percent of today’s crashes and it’s thought that distracted and inattentive driving continues to be a major contributor to these wrecks.
If you are a parent, that should make you shudder. That’s because motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, and drivers 15 to 19 years old are three times more likely that drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. Teen drivers are also much more likely to be distracted by a cell phone, passengers or other electronics in the vehicle than older drivers (yet adults are catching up).
Other factors contributing to teen driving deaths are that too many don’t wear seat belts, they are less experienced behind the wheel, and they are more prone to speeding.
NHTSA has mounted a campaign to remind us of the “5 to Drive” rules we all need to observe:
- No cell phones while driving
- No extra passengers
- No speeding
- No alcohol
- No driving or riding without a seat belt
California Casualty believes safe driving for teens is a year-round effort. We are a major supporter and charter member of the non-profit Impact Teen Drivers program, proactively using peer-to-peer influencing and education to prevent the tragedy of distracted teen driving.