As we head into our last big holiday weekend of the summer, we learned some bad news that we lost 35,092 people in traffic crashes in 2015. That is the most traffic fatalities since 2008.
Let’s go to NHTSA’s press release announcing the statistics: “NHTSA also noted human factors continued to contribute to the majority of crashes. Almost half of passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts. Research shows almost one in three fatalities involved drunk drivers or speeding. One in 10 fatalities involved distraction.”
There’s a silver lining in this cloud, and it’s that there are steps we can take now to get us back in the right direction – starting with some action by the U.S. government. Right now the federal government has some proposed actions in front of them that would speed the development and deployment of technologies that will enable cars to communicate with each other – and avoid crashes in the future. These connected cars use a specified band of spectrum for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. If there’s any interference in the spectrum, then these advanced safety communications simply won’t work.
I have written before about a movement that’s underway to grab the safety spectrum for other uses – without a guarantee that it will be free from interference. That is why Global Automakers has joined with the National Safety Council, AAA, and ITS America, to create a Safety Spectrum Coalition to make sure that public safety drives the decisions on spectrum sharing.
While good economic conditions and an increase in the miles we logged on our highways may be partly responsible for the 2015 increase, they don’t account for all of it. Even with the increases in fatalities, history and experience tells us that these are problems we can solve. Consider how far our industry has come with safety technologies since the invention of the windshield wiper and turn signals. Ten years ago, the number of traffic deaths was nearly 25% higher, with 42,708 fatalities reported nationwide in 2005. The sooner the federal government acts to protect the safety spectrum and promote these new safety technologies, the sooner we can protect lives.
Drive safe this holiday weekend.