Last week served as a grim reminder of the dangers faced by teen drivers. Three car crashes claimed the lives of 15 teenagers, including four Chicago-area teens whose vehicle went into a creek on Tuesday morning. The Illinois car accident was joined by a fatal wreck in Ohio and another in Texas, each involving young drivers and multiple teen passengers. Following the report from the National Safety Council indicating that teen highway deaths rose sharply last year, this latest round of tragedies may increase calls for stricter standards for new drivers.
The National Transportation Safety Board has issued recommendations to address the problems that led to two railroad accidents last year. The accidents occurred in Michigan and Illinois last year. The accident in Illinois, which occurred in February of last year, killed a woman who was driving when she collided with the train. According to the NTSB, both accidents were caused by railroad workers failing to follow required safety precautions.
A new study has demonstrated that pregnant women who are involved in an accident while wearing their seat belts are better off than women who failed to buckle up. This study confirmed the findings of several prior studies showing that a pregnant woman and her baby are more likely to survive a car accident if the woman is wearing a seat belt. Some pregnant women are concerned that a seat belt or air bag could harm their baby in the event of an accident.
A tired driver is more likely to make a mistake that leads to an accident. A tired doctor is more likely to harm a patient through medical malpractice. Unfortunately, as a nation, we are not getting enough sleep. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drowsy driving is the cause of 40,000 injuries every year, as well as more than 1,500 driving fatalities. Improved sleep habits and a better understanding of sleep deficiencies could have a tremendous impact on the safety of U.S. roads.
Last year, a proposal to ban the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers failed to gain traction in the Senate. A new proposal passed the House last week and the Senate will again be asked to consider banning drivers from using hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel. Cell phones have been targeted by safety advocates seeking ways to reduce distracted driving accidents. While the majority of states have banned texting and driving, a complete ban of hand-held devices by drivers would acknowledge that cell phones use is not conducive to safe driving. The ban would allow the use of hand-held devices in the event of an emergency. It would also allow the use of cell phones through hands-free devices.
From 2005 to 2011, motor vehicle accident fatalities steadily dropped. In 2012, that trend came to a halt as car accident deaths rose by roughly 5 percent from 2011. The National Safety Council released a report on Tuesday indicating that 2012 saw an estimated 36,200 deaths caused by vehicle crashes. The information is still being analyzed, but speculation has already begun as to why the number increased for the first time since 2004 to 2005.
According to National Safety Council estimates, there is a cell phone related car accident every 24 seconds. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has concluded that 80 percent of motor vehicle accidents are the result of distraction behind the wheel. Drivers who are not paying attention to the task of safe driving are a hazard. Safety experts are working to address the dangers of distracted driving. Part of the plan is to make people understand the danger they put themselves in, and the danger they pose to others, when they take their attention off the wheel.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tracks data on car accidents in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). A recent analysis of fatal accidents between 1996 and 2008 showed a sharp increase in the risk of fatality for obese drivers involved in collisions with other vehicles. The study compared accidents where the vehicles involved were the same size and analyzed the fatality risk of drivers categorized by height and weight. Drivers with a body mass index (BMI) over 30, the accepted definition of "obese", were much more likely to die in their accidents than normal weight people.