For decades road fatalities were on a steady decline thanks in large part to new technologies that have made our cars safer, like anti-lock brakes, airbags, early warning systems and better construction.
Then the smartphone entered the scene and the social media addiction exploded, adding a driving distraction that some people find too hard to ignore.
The result: A steady rise in vehicle accident fatalities that started spiking in 2014 and has kept on going.
As many as 42,060 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, according to the National Safety Council. That an 8% increase over 2019, despite people driving less frequently because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So despite our vehicles being safer than ever, the distraction of our interactive smartphones is getting the better of us. More people take their eyes off the road to text and read messages while barreling along.
If you haven't done so already, you need to make a promise to yourself and your family that you won't touch the phone while driving.
If not for the sake of your loved ones and innocent bystanders, you should put the phone down for the law.
It's already illegal to talk on the phone without a hands-free device and to drive while sending text messages or interacting in some way on your smartphone.
The National Safety Council study looked at the three top causes of accidents:
Distracted driving includes texting, talking on the phone, eating and talking while driving. In 2014, more than 3,000 people were killed and another 431,000 seriously injured in a distracted-driving accident.
Drivers, motorists who use a hand-held device are four times more likely to be involved in an auto collision than any other driver, according to the council.
Increased risks associated with phone use:
When we are familiar with the road on which we are driving, we're more likely to speed.
But we are also most likely to have an accident within two miles of our home since that's where we most often will drive.
But speeding is the second cause of road deaths and it is the cause of some 14,000 deaths every year.
Driving under the influence
Drunk driving used to be the top cause of road deaths, but it's now third. Not to minimize the danger, we point out that nearly 10,000 people die every year in drunk driving accidents (the drunk drivers themselves but also the innocent pedestrians and other drivers that they kill).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 28 people die in a drinking and driving accident each day.
The bottom line: If you are going out and know you will be drinking, either appoint a designated driver in your entourage or call cab.
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