Fatalities down, but distracted driving threatens our safety

/ / Law Blog

Are cars getting safer? According to the federal government, the answer is “yes”.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) compiles car crash data every year. In 2007, more than 41,000 people died on our roads. In 2008, that number dropped to 25,351. That represents a 39 percent decrease in just one year.

The 2008 figure is the lowest since 1975 when NHTSA began collecting fatality data. You can have a look at the NHTSA numbers by visiting its website.

Even so, 25,351 is a HUGE number of lives lost. If that many people in the U.S. were dying each year from terrorist attacks or other grievous causes, the government would declare a national emergency and we’d probably be living under martial law. Traffic fatalities are devastating, but they a something that we as a society have come to accept as a natural consequence of driving. You get behind the wheel and you hope for the best.

It may not be possible to control the behavior of other drivers, but you can control yours and at least minimize the chance of you being the cause of an accident. One easy way to decrease that likelihood is to limit any distractions while you are driving.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles publishes an annual report on distracted driving. In spite of all the attention given to cell phone use and texting, the report details numerous other causes of distracted driving including food, drink, and moving objects such as a pet or insect.

The report and the causes of distracted driving make you aware of how your own behavior can put you in danger. That’s why when you get behind the wheel, your sole task should be to drive the car. Many of us take driving for granted, but when you become aware of all the types of distractions, you can minimize your chances of being caught off guard.