The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has just announced Road to Zero, a coalition dedicated to eliminating traffic deaths. I support this plan wholeheartedly.
The NHTSA has committed $3 million to support auto safety organizations over the next three years. The coalition of organizations will work together on innovative approaches to saving lives.
A similar program in Sweden reduced deaths from only seven in 100,000 to only three in 100,000 in just 15 years.
Let’s hope we get the same results. Our highways are death traps.
The current news on traffic safety is frightening: 18,000 people died in accidents just during the first half of this year — a huge 10 percent increase over this same period in 2015. At that rate, 36,000 people will be killed this year. That’s 12 times more than the number of people who died on 9/11.
If this scary trend continues, 2016 will mark the largest rate in traffic deaths in 50 years.
But back when I started driving in 1969, it was the Stone Age when it came to auto safety features. Auto occupants rarely used seat belts and dual lap and shoulder strap seat belts didn’t even become mandatory until the late 1970’s. In 1998 federal law mandated airbags in all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. Anti lock brakes, automatic steering, laminated safety windshield glass and crush proof roofs further reduced traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
With all the advancements in automation, you’d assume we’d have dramatic decreases in traffic accidents and injuries.
So, why is driving becoming less safe?
The Washington Post blames the economic improvements for this enormous increase. Americans traveled 50 billion more miles from January to June this year than last. But while the increase in drivers had an impact on crash rates, this isn’t the full story.
Drivers are also distracted like never before in the history of the automobile.
50 years ago, the person behind the wheel drove — but that was it. He didn’t dial his phone, Facebook, text, or answer an email. He didn’t eat his lunch or reach for the computer screen in his dashboard as he was going 65 MPH. And he didn’t get drunk or stoned at the rates we see now.
Further exasperating the problem, with all of our modern conveniences, Americans still can’t seem to get enough sleep. A person who would never drive drunk might not think twice about driving while exhausted.
The Road to Zero will include organizations that target distracted driving, tired driving, seat belt use and other actions we can all take to make our roads safer.
There is some good news. The rate of Texas traffic deaths went down — slightly. Texas was one of only five states in which roadway fatalities decreased by one percent. But we were already number one and still are.
This program might just put me out of a job! But I’m fine with that.
I just finalized two cases afternoon, a woman who has been blinded in one eye and a young man who limped away from here with a fractured hip. Yes, I got large recoveries of money for both of my clients, but it was heart breaking to see their permanent injuries.
Having helped accident victims for recover for their injuries for 36 years, I would be thrilled to see the day when nobody suffers an injury or death in a car crash.