As schools nationwide let out and an increasing number of families begin to hit the road for summer vacations, federal highway safety officials have released a travel advisory, listing precautionary steps and routine safety procedures that should be followed to ensure safe travels.
Amid the tenth consecutive quarter of increased automobile accidents recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the agency released a Consumer Advisory on May 25, detailing safety tips to help mitigate and prevent serious injuries.
For the last 25 years, the NHTSA has seen a steady decrease in the numbers of traffic related fatalities, with 2014 hitting a record low of only 32,675 traffic deaths; 1.07 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. However, since 2014, the rate of motor vehicle crash fatalities has been steadily increasing, with nearly 10 consecutive quarterly increases in traffic related deaths, reaching the most dramatic two-year escalation in more than 53 years.
According to the NHTSA data, approximately 35,092 traffic fatalities occurred in 2015, and that number increased to 40,000 fatalities and over 4.5 million serious injuries in 2016.
Highway traffic safety professionals attribute the rapid increases to several factors, including distracted driving, drowsy driving, drunk driving and the increase in citizens walking or bicycling to work each day.
Crash data indicates that more than 95% of all automobile crashes are the result of human error, with the largest number resulting from distracted drivers using smartphones. Distracted driving has been determined to cause approximately 10% of fatal crashes and 15% of serious injury crashes.
As part of the NHTSA Consumer Advisory, the agency urges consumers to put their phones down and not to partake in anything that would draw your eyes away from the road such as eating, drinking or using electronic devices of any sort.
Other suggestions by the agency to keep summer travels safe include performing basic safety checks on your vehicles such as battery checks, brake checks, tire rotations, filling windshield wiper fluid, checking tire pressures and other general vehicle maintenance.
Travelers should always keep in mind the occupants of their vehicle and ensure everyone is seat belted while inside of the vehicle. In 2014, more than 11,000 people not belted during accident that could have lived were killed in automobile crashes, according to the NHTSA.
Drivers should always check their vehicles for recalls to avoid unexpected issues that could result in crashes and injuries. Customers are encouraged to visit the NHTSA website to verify if their vehicle is included in any ongoing recalls by visiting https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls.
The NHTSA is urging drivers to be alert for road side pedestrians such as police, emergency responders, road workers, pedestrians and cyclists.
On average, there are nearly 5,000 pedestrians killed from roadway accidents, according to the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA). A recent report by the agency indicated that during the first six months of 2015, there were a total of 2,463 pedestrian fatalities, which is a 10% increase from the 2014 year, which recorded 2,232 fatalities during the same time frame.
GHSA data indicates that over the last several years the percentage of auto accidents involving pedestrians has grown from 11% to 15%, which according to the NHTSA can be attributed to both distracted drivers and distracted pedestrians looking at their smartphone while cross streets or riding bicycles.