Deborah A.P. Hershman
President and CEO, National Safety Council
By the time you finish reading this sentence, someone will have been hurt in a car crash. Last year, more than 40,000 people were estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Safety Council. This is a six percent increase over 2015 and a 14 percent increase since 2014 — the steepest two-year uptick in more than 50 years.
Most crash deaths can be prevented if a child is properly restrained. Although state laws are typically based on age, parents should choose safety seats for their children based on the child’s weight, height and developmental level. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to car seats. Research from Injury Facts shows that child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (younger than one) and by 54 percent for toddlers (one to four years old).
The newsest drivers
For teenagers, car crashes are the number one killer. Contributing factors include distractions (other young passengers and technology), nighttime conditions, lack of seat belt use and speeding. However, there is one overarching reason teens crash — inexperience. This is a critical time for parents to stay involved and coach their teen driver. Parents should ride with teen drivers for at least 30 minutes each week, even after they are licensed, and model proper driving habits in their own driving. Studies show that teens with parents who set rules and pay attention to their activities are half as likely to crash.
Vehicle safety technology can save lives. Ninety-four percent of car crashes are due to human error, and vehicle safety technology can play a big role in mitigating and even preventing crashes. For older adult drivers, systems like blind spot monitor and lane departure warning can assist people by providing increased reaction times and greater situational awareness. Advanced safety technology like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control go beyond just alerting the driver and actively engage to prevent a crash. While these technologies can help, drivers need to always be engaged, alert and defensive on the roads.
Warnings for every age
For everyone on the road, the three key behaviors that cause most deaths are speeding, drunk driving and distracted driving. More than half the people who died in vehicles were not wearing their seat belt. Each one of these deaths is preventable. By wearing a seat belt every time, driving for road conditions, disconnecting your phone (including hands-free) or getting a sober ride home, we can affect the deadly trend that is plaguing our roadways.
Deborah A.P. Hershman, President and CEO, National Safety Council, [email protected]