Based on car accident statistics from the first six months of 2015, Florida and the rest of the country could be on pace for the “deadliest driving year since 2007,” according to the National Safety Council.
As a law firm that investigates car accidents for clients in Orlando, Winter Park and throughout Florida, we are not surprised. We believe a key contributor to the increase is driver distraction.
Florida’s Traffic Fatality Increase Is Among Nation’s Highest
The NSC reports that 18,630 traffic deaths occurred between January and June of this year, marking a 14 percent rise from the first six months of 2014, when 16,400 car crash fatalities were recorded. If this continues, the NSC states, it could push the nation’s traffic deaths total beyond 40,000 for the first time since 2007.
Additionally, the NSC reports, serious car accident injuries are up by 30 percent nationally, approaching 2,254,000. The estimated total cost of those crashes between January and June was $152 billion, or 24 percent higher than a year ago.
In Florida, traffic crash fatalities rose at a rate exceeding the national average, according to NSC figures. The number of car accident deaths in our state in the first six months rose from 1,114 in 2014 to 1,441 in 2015 – a 29 percent increase. Only one other state, Oregon, saw a greater increase in crash deaths.
States with Highest Motor Vehicle Death Increases: January to June 2015
A question many may have is, “Why are deadly car accidents on the rise?”
The NSC, a non-profit organization that studies safety issues and provides safety improvement guidance, suggests the increase is due to the fact that people are driving more and driving longer distances.
“[A]n improving economy with lower gas prices and unemployment rates herald increases in vehicle miles traveled,” the NSC states in a press release, pointing to the fact that average gas prices are 30 percent lower than they were in 2014 (and expected to remain low through 2016).
Here’s Why Distractions Are Driving Up Car Accident Fatalities
The NSC makes a good point. However, we believe that distracted driving cannot be overlooked as a major factor that is contributing to the spike in deadly crashes.
In the car accident cases that our law firm handles, we see driver distraction repeatedly coming up as an issue. The problem mainly involves smartphone use.
A recently released survey by AT&T reflects what we are seeing. In May 2015, the company announced that seven out of 10 people who participated in its survey said they use a smartphone while driving – and not just for talking or texting.
According to the survey results, people also used their smartphones while driving for:
|Surfing the net||28%||14%|
|27%||Shooting a video||12%|
|Snapping a “selfie”||17%||Snapchat||11%|
Regretfully, 22 percent of people who said they accessed social networks while driving said they did so because of an “addiction,” while 27 percent of those who said they shot videos said they could do it safely while operating a vehicle.
As this survey shows, too many people believe they can “multi-task” while driving. And this goes beyond using smartphones behind the wheel. People also try to eat, drink, smoke, put on makeup, read and even handle their pets while driving, too.
Whenever a person takes his or her eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off what they should be doing while driving, it can lead to a crash.
How You Can Avoid Distracted Driving
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has provided a list of “10 Tips for Managing Driver Distractions.” We suggest checking it out. It can remind you of what you can and should do when driving in order to make yourself and others on the road safer. The tips include:
- Never text, e-mail, surf the Web or talk on a phone while driving. Note that texting while driving is now against the law in Florida. If you are driving through another state, make sure you know that state’s distracted driving laws.
- Ask a passenger to respond to a call or a text for you instead of doing it yourself.
- Turn off your smartphone or put it on silent mode when you get into your car. This will help you to fight the urge to glance down at it or use it.
- Set up an automated message that will let people know you are driving and will not reply to calls or text messages until you get to your destination.
- Shave, put on makeup, brush your hair and do whatever other grooming you must do before you get in your car. Don’t use your rearview mirror as a bathroom mirror.
- Plan ahead so that you don’t need to look at a map on your phone or punch in an address on a GPS device or app.
- Make sure your pets are secured before you start the car.
- If you need to address a situation with your children, pull over. Don’t solve a backseat squabble or try to reach into the backseat to pick up a dropped toy, book or “sippy cup” while driving.
We hope drivers in Orlando, Winter Park and throughout Florida take distracted driving seriously. As the recent NSC figures show, there can be deadly consequences when we fail to think and act safely when driving.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been harmed by a distracted driver, make sure to contact an experienced Orlando car accident attorney who will review your case and help you to seek just compensation for your injuries and other losses.