Driving in America can be dangerous to your health, this is despite the many safety features incorporated in many vehicles. These include emergency front and rear braking, lane departure warnings/prevention. Plus, rear and all-around vision cameras and more. So, what’s going on? National Safety Council (NSC) reported over 40,000 crash deaths in both 2016 and 2017. Over 4 million injuries and huge economic losses. The use of smartphones behind the wheel is a major factor. We, by design, are being held captive by Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Texting, talking, web surfing, emailing and other uses while driving is a major distraction impacting cognitive and visual capabilities.
NSC cites alcohol and speeding together as significant causative crash factors. The new players are smartphones. Texting while driving is literally, killing us. Police arriving at crash sites have difficulty in determining causation since most phones are hidden by the time they arrive. This leads to underreporting. Texting for 4 seconds at 55mph is tantamount to driving blind for length of a football field. What is so important! Speed limits, red lights, stop signs have become mere suggestions. Construction zones invite more dangerous behavior. Tailgating is quite common as a crash cause. You know someone is tailgating when you can see the driver’s teeth in the rear-view mirror. Have these behaviors become the new normal? 2017 data show crash death increases for pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists, Nationally, crash death autopsies reveal increased levels of marijuana and opioids in blood samples. Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational cannabis has reported 66% increase crash fatalities since legislation passed along with a 55% youth crash rate (#1 in US) above national level. Driving laws are only useful if they are obeyed and enforced. The national push to legalize marijuana use will probably increase vehicular crashes Weed, combined with alcohol or opioids will become common findings. Driver attitudes have evolved from driving defensively to one of entitlement. “The rules apply to others, not me.” Road rage episodes continue to increase.
We need a renaissance, major changes regarding driver attitudes and values. This applies to all driver age groups. Driver Education has been outsourced by most high schools in US. Almost all drivers have never taken a defensive driving program since receiving their license. We can all benefit from a review course and participating in actual physical driving experiences with certified instructors. These programs are available from a variety of sources via web search. There are other additional problems. Too many drivers lack insurance (23% in my state-MI). Older drivers make up the largest demographic group but are not re-tested in most states and can easily renew licenses.
To repeat, we require a “wholesale” change to maturity and responsibility behind the wheel to reduce the carnage on our roads and highways. Driverless cars may be in our future, but not for many years.
Marv Berkowitz, Pres.