Safer vehicles and safer roadways: That’s a hand-in-hand proposition, right?
Don’t bet on it.
In fact, a starkly opposite — and arguably ironic — conclusion is confronting safety regulators whose job is to identify traffic trends, spotlight areas of concern and suggest strategies for improved outcomes on America’s streets and highways.
To wit: Although new car models are being progressively packed with high-tech safety components (cameras, brake-assist and crash-avoidance technologies, enhanced anti-rollover features and so forth), reduced crash numbers are not being noted as a result of such improvements.
In fact, roadway deaths nationally have been spiking sharply upward. As noted in an article written by James R. Hood, the founder and ex-editor of the advocacy group ConsumerAffairs, the National Safety Council concludes that U.S. traffic fatalities recently have “increased every month for six straight months.”
Council officials obviously find that alarming, and note further that traffic-related deaths across the country through April of this year are up by a whopping 11 percent over the same four-month period in 2014.
Hood states that a number of factors are collectively — and literally — driving up the fatality numbers, including the above-noted high-tech vehicle enhancements. Although the safety equipment available on many cars today is indeed impressive, he writes, more powerful engines that are routinely available “are highly responsive, increasing the temptation to speed.”
And Hood gives a further and obligatory nod toward a familiar nemesis that features in virtually every article focused upon traffic considerations and concerns, namely, the scourge of distracted driving. No responsible driver in California or elsewhere is under the illusion that all motorists are equally attuned to the task of attentive driving at all times. The NSC states that cellphone use while behind the wheel is a contributing factor in more than one-quarter of all vehicle crashes.
Our highways “remain treacherous,” writes Hood.
That is a message that certainly merits repeating occasionally and exacting vigilance from all motorists who are engaged behind the wheel.