The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced “highway fatalities [have] increased unexpectedly during the first quarter of 2012.” Traffic deaths increased 13.5% during the initial three months of 2012 over the same quarter of the previous year. This after a declining number of fatalities last year netting the lowest total in more than 60 years.
NHTSA points to the warmer winter having encouraged more road travel, hence a proportional increase in fatalities. According to “Yahoo! Autos,” 7,360 people were killed in traffic accidents, up from 6,270 the previous year.
In addition to the warmer winter weather allowing more road travel (more miles driven), NHTSA says that American motorists have been curtailing their driving in recent years to combat the economic effects of the increase in gas prices. Both driving factors were considered in the comparison.
The National Safety Council (NSC), however, has estimated the traffic fatalities at a higher number of 8,170 during the first quarter—up from 7,270 in the previous year (same quarter). To-date, there seems to be no explanation why the two sets of numbers differ so widely, yet, both the NHTSA and the NSC agree that driver distraction is a major contributor to the traffic accidents and the resulting fatalities. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has estimated that driver distraction could be responsible for “as many as 1 in 11 fatalities on American roads.”
Driver distraction is becoming more of a problem as the number of mobile devices and various other electronic distractions grow (e.g., GPS navigation devices, satellite radios, MP3 and iPods, etc.). There are more and more "toys" available for drivers, both adults and teenagers. Drivers should remind themselves that paying attention to the road is the number one goal, not multi-tasking. We are a society of multi-taskers, but that trait should be left for venues other than behind the wheel of a car or truck. It only takes a split-second to cause injury or death. Whatever it is, it can wait.