Two of the saddest and most disturbing statistics I have ever read:

According to a recently released report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

1.   Traffic fatalities in the Continental U.S. were up 10.4 percent in the first six months of 2016 over the same time period in 2015.

The assumption is that if there is an increase in fatalities, it exists as a direct correlation to an increase in driving. But the number of vehicles on the road only rose 3.3 percent during that period. And state highway officials dismiss the association. Having more cars on the road does not necessarily lead to more crashes. Crowded roads can sometimes have the exact opposite effect by forcing drivers to pay closer attention to what is happening around them. Most people are unaware of the fact that accident rates on country roads are statistically higher than city avenues.

2.   Even more shocking is the 18 percent rise in traffic fatalities over the comparable 2014 statistics.

The eight percent jump between 2014 and 2015 marked the biggest single jump in traffic fatalities year over year in 50 years. Last winter, the National Safety Council issued its largest year-over-year percentage increase in 50 years, when it estimated fatalities had jumped 8% in 2015 compared to 2014.   Until last year, U.S. traffic death statistics had been decreasing – often attributed to road and car safety improvements, child car seats, and efforts to increase seat belt use and discourage drunk driving. If you look at the chart you can see that fatalities were trending downward with 7 year low in 2014 and suddenly reversed, only to rise dramatically in the last two years.

 

"Our complacency is killing us," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "One hundred deaths every day should outrage us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death."

So why is this happening? Why did we suddenly rebound and escalate to new levels when it comes in traffic fatalities? With all the modern safety systems installed in automobiles; literature and public service announcements explaining the importance of safe driving practices and laws that prevent us from driving distractedly, what would cause an increase in fatalities?

The statistics point to the following causes:

1.   The percentage of traffic deaths in which at least one driver tested positive for drugs has nearly doubled over a decade.

Amid the increase in overall U.S. traffic fatalities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has tracked an upswing in the percentage of drivers testing positive for illegal drugs and prescription medications such as opioids, according to federal data released to USA TODAY.


 

2.   Distracted Driving: Beyond texting while driving, distracted driving includes the use of:  intricate entertainment systems, navigation systems, social media and web-based scrolling on cell phones or computers and even eating, all attempted while the vehicle is in motion. Any activity that includes removing your eyes from the roadway. The National Transportation and Safety Board has stated that the mobile web is a growing issue for safety advocates concerned about distractions while driving. Motorists of all ages are increasing their use of the mobile web while driving.

What is the answer? Beyond education and awareness,  the move toward Automatic Breaking and Self Driving Automobiles and safety may help to decrease the numbers. Letting the vehicle do the driving, at the moments that we become distracted is an excellent safety feature for the future.