The first few months of 2015 put the year on pace to be the deadliest for drivers in some time. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 7,500 people died in car and truck accidents in the first three months of 2015. That is an increase of 650 deaths, or 9.5 percent, from the same period in 2014. The total number of deaths is projected to be the highest since 2007.
Addiction is a difficult subject for many. Few people are eager to admit that they are dependent on an unhealthy habit. While alcohol and drug addiction cost many lives in car accidents every year, it is possible that cell phone addiction will grow to be equally damaging. One recent study showed that as many as 60 percent of high school students are addicted to their cell phones. Cell phone use among high school and college aged people might shock older generations. As this group begins to dominate the driving population, the number of distracted driving accidents could skyrocket.
According to industry insiders, new car buyers are increasingly interested in built-in technology that keeps a driver connected to the outside world. The dashboard "infotainment" system is a major selling point for some new cars, particularly those favored by younger drivers. Unfortunately, that technology could be contributing to injuries and deaths in distracted driving accidents. A recent study looked at several pieces of voice-activated technology and the impact each had on a drivers' attention. The study supported previous findings that even hands-free technology presents an unsafe level of distraction for a driver.
Your car may soon be able to detect when your eyes wander due to distraction or fatigue. The commercial trucking industry has already begun investing in devices meant to track the eyes and faces of drivers. General Motors has now made a similar investment by purchasing 500,000 tracking devices from the company Seeing Machines. The devices can tell within a single degree of angle where you are looking.
A growing number of states have enacted laws banning the use of handheld cell phones by drivers. No laws have yet been passed banning hands-free technology by drivers. This distinction may be fueling the perception that hands-free technology is the answer to rising safety concerns about distracted driving. Unfortunately, no research supports the notion that hands-free devices are actually any better at preventing distracted driving car accidents. More than 30 studies have shown that there is no safety difference between handheld and hands-free devices in terms of their impact on safe driving. The National Safety Council is working to overcome the misperception of hands-free devices as a safer alternative.
In 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring April the National Distracted Driving Awareness month. Every April, law enforcement and safety experts work to spread awareness about the dangers of distractions behind the wheel. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving crashes were responsible for more than 3,000 deaths in 2011, alone. Combating this dangerous practice is a top priority in making highway travel safer for everyone.