The last decade has seen a notable advancement in technologies designed to improve vehicle safety. Those include things like electronic stability control, backup cameras, and alerts when vehicles are in our blind spot or when we are about to collide. Vehicles are also coming equipped with an increasing number of airbags.
But despite all this, plus the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on public education and awareness campaigns, driving is more dangerous than it's ever been.
Traffic safety experts say people in the U.S. are dying at a faster clip on our highways and roads than at any time in the last 50 years. After years of declining auto accident fatalities, we're suddenly seeing a sharp and alarming increase. Analysts examining the issue have come up with several different theories, which mainly come down to this: Driver distraction.
Yes, the economy has improved recently, which means gas prices are down leading to more people on the road. More people on the road means more potential for a collision.
By and large, these incidents are fueled by an uptick in people simply not using appropriate caution. In effect, motorists are breaching their duty of care to other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, by paying more mind to their phones than on the road ahead.
The National Safety Council reports approximately 40,200 people died in motor vehicle accidents last year. That is a six percent uptick in a single year. Further, this follows the seven percent rise noted in 2015. The collective two-year increase in fatality rates totals 14 percent. That's the biggest rise in more than a half century.
Distraction is also increasing. Yes, people have always had some distractions - children in the back seat, pets, makeup, food, etc. But we didn't used to have personal computers and phones at our immediate disposal at all times while operating three-ton machinery at 40 mph. Even vehicle manufacturers have gotten in on the trend, offering consumers dashboards that are increasingly equipped with a wide range of digital options. Voice controls and other features are supposed to help by keeping drivers' eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel, but this hasn't fully addressed the issue because distraction occurs in the mind.
While many states, including Massachusetts, have enacted statutes prohibiting texting while driving, fewer have barred use of cellphones, handheld or otherwise. Massachusetts lawmakers last year proposed S.B. 2093 which would have prohibited the use of handheld cell phones by all drivers and established a $100 fine for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense. Although it passed the state Senate, the measure failed to gain steam in the House. The state does have a texting while driving law with fines that are consistent with that schedule.
In the ten years since the Commonwealth's texting while driving law went into effect, authorities issued approximately 10,000 tickets with fines for texting violations, according to WBUR.
Our Boston car accident lawyers know there is more that can be done to prevent this troubling trend of higher crash fatality rates from continuing. It starts with each driver taking responsibility for his or her own behaviors behind the wheel. For those that fail to do so, we're here to hold them to account on behalf of the victims.