Traffic deaths, after mostly decreasing for the past decade, have increased by 8 percent in the first half of 2015. This increase prompted a call from the nation’s highway safety chief to find ways to prevent the “human errors” that he says cause most deadly accidents. The new numbers were released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A final number of fatal crashes was released for 2014, showing a decline of 0.1 percent. It’s reported that lower gas prices and an improving economy are prompting people to travel more this year. Americans drove 1.54 trillion miles in the first half of 2015, up 3.5 percent from the same period in 2014, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said that not all of the increase could be attributed to people driving more miles. He suspects that texting and other distractions while using smartphones were part of the cause, as well as drunken, drugged and drowsy driving, and increased driving by teenagers. Rosekind said further that NHTSA doesn’t have enough clear data so far to pinpoint exact causes. But he did say that the “numbers are a wake-up call.” The safety chief urged folks to stop using their phones while driving, not to drink alcohol or use drugs and get behind the wheel, and to wear seat belts and motorcycle helmets.
NHTSA said its research shows that human decisions cause 94 percent of all crashes. I am not sure I can totally agree with that statement. Our lawyers have learned from years of handling product liability litigation that “vehicle design defects” cause a large number of vehicle crashes. NHTSA plans to hold five meetings around the country very early this year to get input on how to cut traffic deaths, followed by a larger meeting in Washington that would have specific recommendations to address the human factor. Hopefully NHTSA won’t fail to recognize that design defects play a major role in highway crashes.
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