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Traffic Related Fatalities

December 16, 2010

The Wall Street Journal reports that the number of drivers involved in fatal accidents who were distracted rose 42% from 2005 to 2008. Sivak and Schoettle found that in 2005, 2,369 fatal accidents were blamed on inattentive driving. By 2008, that number had risen to 3,366. According to statistics from the National Safety Council, about 2,600 deaths and 12,000 serious injuries per year nationwide are attributed to using a cell phone while driving.

However the total number of road related fatalities in 2009 dropped to 33,963, which is 22% decrease since 2005. A study conducted by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan indicates that tougher laws, side airbags, and a decline in the number of teen drivers were all factors in the decline.

Talking or texting while driving is becoming increasingly dangerous at it has become the norm for many drivers. Although the overall number of deaths has declined, distracted driving now accounts for a large percentage of traffic related fatalities. If you are driving while distracted, your reaction rate is decreased by about 20 percent. This means you are going to take 20 percent longer to realize there is impending danger and either brake or swerve to avoid it. When you figure a car averaging about 40 m.p.h. will travel 164 feet from brake application to full stop including driver reaction time (about 1.5 seconds), it means the car traveled 88 feet before the driver even realized there was a problem and applied the brakes. Now, think about that same driver talking on a cell phone – it would take him or her an additional 33 feet of travel before they stopped for the danger – which means they are likely going to come through the back end of your car.

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