According to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council (NSC), preliminary reports show that 2015 may end with the most auto-related deaths in the U.S. since 2007. In the first three months alone, the NHTSA reported an increase of 9.5%. The NSC reported a 14% jump in the first six months.
Why the spike?
Some industry experts believe part of the reason is due to the lowest gas prices in years, adverse weather in some parts of the country, and an economic recovery in the U.S. that has led to more drivers on our roadways. Others disagree.
The NSC estimates 1 in 4 accidents involve a cell phone, yet despite understanding the risks, constant connectivity still exists. Drivers are texting, talking, emailing, taking selfies and posting on social media while trying to keep one eye on the road. It is not the mobile technology itself that causes accidents; it’s using the technology that distracts drivers. Does that mean such technological advances should cease? Not necessarily. Those same distracted drivers would probably find something else to be distracted by if they weren’t texting or talking on the phone. We have all seen drivers having their morning cup of coffee, reading the newspaper, putting on makeup, eating food, navigating a GPS, changing the radio, arguing with passengers, reaching into the back seat or on the floor, and much more. It would seem drivers who engage in these distractions are careless about attention, don’t understand the risks, or simply just don’t care.
Are automakers helping or adding to the problem?
Automakers install technology to make people safer, but are they sending mixed signals? Consider the heads-up display (HUD) which projects information holographically in front of drivers so they don’t need to take their eyes from the road to check speed, direction or what is playing on the radio. Won’t reading a playlist or checking directions still distract a driver from the task of driving? On the other hand, research has shown that some advanced technology, such as adaptive cruise control and collision detection technology, may remove human error and possibly reduce accidents drastically.
Recently, ten major vehicle manufacturers committed to making automatic emergency braking (AEB) a standard feature on all new vehicles. Automatic emergency braking includes a range of systems designed to address the large number of crashes, especially rear-end crashes, in which drivers do not apply the brakes or fail to apply sufficient braking power to avoid or mitigate a crash. AEB systems use on-vehicle sensors such as radar, cameras or lasers to detect an imminent crash, warn the driver and, if the driver does not take sufficient action, engage the brakes. “Most crashes involve driver error. This technology can compensate for the mistakes every driver makes because the systems are always on alert, monitoring the road ahead and never getting tired or distracted,” said IIHS President Adrian Lund. While this might be true, does it really address the problem at hand or does it cause people to pay less attention on the road assuming the car will take care of them? Only time will tell if these systems make a substantial difference in auto crashes or even the degree of injury if an accident does occur, but they should never be a substitute for attentive and careful driving.
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.