Traffic deaths increase at fastest pace in more than half a century

Distracted driving is helping fuel the fastest increase in traffic deaths in more than half a century.

America's roads and highways are getting a lot more dangerous. As the New York Times recently reported, traffic fatalities across the country have increased faster in the last two years than they have at any other point in more than half a century. The alarming increase in deadly motor vehicle accidents has both safety experts and public officials alarmed, especially given that vehicle engineering has made cars safer and there is greater public awareness about the dangers of impaired driving. Most safety experts believe that smartphones and in-car entertainment systems are the main reason for the dramatic spike in traffic deaths.

The dramatic increase in traffic fatalities

Last year around 40,200 people died on the road nationwide, based on figures calculated by the highly-respected National Safety Council. The last time traffic fatalities exceeded 40,000 was back in 2007, just before the Great Recession forced many people to significantly cut back on how much and how often they drive. In the past two years, traffic deaths have soared by 14 percent, the steepest two-year increase in such fatalities since the 1960s.

Motorists aren't the only ones being impacted by the increase in road deaths. According to CBS News, pedestrian deaths are rising much faster than other types of traffic fatalities, with an 11 percent increase in pedestrian deaths last year alone based on figures released by the Governors Highway Safety Association. The close to 6,000 pedestrians who died last year now account for about 15 percent of overall traffic deaths, up from 11 percent just ten years ago.

Smartphones may be to blame

The increase in traffic deaths in the past two years has wiped out the improvements that were made following the Great Recession, when traffic deaths declined rapidly. With the economy now improving and gas prices remaining low, more people are getting back in their cars, which means that an increase in accidents and traffic fatalities is somewhat to be expected.

However, the improving economy only goes so far in explaining why traffic deaths are increasing so dramatically. In fact, the fatality rate is increasing much faster than the number of miles traveled is increasing, suggesting that an increased number of drivers is not the sole reason for the increase in fatalities. Distracted driving is likely the main factor in why roads have become so much more dangerous. Not only have smartphones taken drivers' eyes off the roads, but in-car hands-free entertainment systems, which are often marketed as a safer alternative to smartphones, are increasingly being shown to be just as distracting as handheld devices.

Personal injury law

With drivers more distracted than ever before, it is important for those who have been hurt in an accident to get the representation they need. An experienced personal injury attorney can help accident victims in a variety of ways, including with helping them file claims and pursuing the financial compensation they may be entitled to.