For the first time in 10 years, the number of people dying in Georgia car accidents has increased. So far in 2015, 1,339 people have died in Georgia car accidents. In 2014, 1,169 people died on Georgia's roadways. The last time Georgia surpassed 1,300 fatalities on its roads was in 2008 when 1,505 people died.
Car Accident Deaths Increase Nationwide
This disturbing trend is not unique to Georgia though. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report in November 2015 that showed traffic fatalities were projected to increase 8.1 percent over 2014's total. In the first half of 2015, only 14 states and Washington, D.C. had a decrease in traffic fatalities over the same period in 2014.
Is Distracted Driving to Blame for the Increase?
What explains this increase? One possible explanation is that more people are hitting the roads since the economy is improving and gas prices are lower. However, the increased travel does not explain the entire increase as fatalities are up per million miles traveled. It is not surprising that many people think that cell phone use--in particular, texting--is a large factor in the increase in traffic deaths. In May 2015, AT&T released a survey that showed 70% of respondents use their smartphones while driving, and 61 percent said they've read, sent, or replied to texts while driving. People are also sending emails, and using social media, such as Facebook, while driving.
Distracted driving is undoubtedly a huge problem. Anyone who travels on Atlanta's highways knows that you can look to your left or right at any given time and catch someone looking at their phone when they should have their eyes on the roads. The National Safety Council estimates that texting increases the chance of an accident by 8 times.
Are New Cars Making Us Worse Drivers?
The design of our cars is one potential factor in this increase that many people overlook. The assumption is that because cars have more safety features than ever before, they must be safer. It is true that newer cars have many standard safety devices, such as airbags and electronic stability control, as well as accident avoidance technology, that are designed to increase safety. However, newer cars also have many opportunities for increased distraction, such as touch screens and infotainment displays. In addition, accident avoidance technology, like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and automatic braking, can lead to complacency and reinforce bad driving behavior as people become dependent on their cars to look out for them.
In conclusion, this disturbing trend will have to be analyzed closely by safety professionals to determine what can be done to counteract it. While we cannot control what other drivers do on the roadways, we can control our own driving behavior. One of the most important things we can do when driving is to put the cell phone away. Distracted driving increases the dangers to you, as well as others on the roadway. Drive safely.