Risky driving — and a fatalistic complacency that accidents will happen — is taking a deadly toll on California roadways and across the rest of the nation, safety experts said after the release of a report that shows record increases in traffic deaths.
“Our complacency is killing us,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, which authored the report. “Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn‘t true. The U.S. lags the rest of the developed world in addressing highway fatalities. We know what needs to be done; we just haven’t done it.”
The study shows that in California, traffic deaths rose 14 percent in 2016 over the previous year, and 19 percent over the past two years. The national death toll rose 6 percent during the past year and 14 percent over the past two, marking the largest two-year jump in the U.S. since 1964.
The report, based on preliminary estimates of traffic fatalities involving motor vehicles on public roads, highways and private property, surprised state traffic safety officials.
“We’re discouraged to see the numbers go up,” said Chris Cochran, spokesman for the state Office of Traffic Safety. “We did not think they would go down, but they’ve gone up more than anyone would have projected.”
While they have not yet analyzed the numbers, traffic experts pointed to distracted driving and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and speeding as leading causes in the spike in deaths.
“We’re trying to figure it out and combat it as we go along,” Cochran said.
In terms of percentage increases, California did not lead the pack, but it did in sheer numbers.
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