A new report released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that traffic deaths in the first half of 2016 have increased by 10.4 percent compared to the same period last year. This follows a 7.2 percent increase in the full year 2015 traffic fatalities, a rise driven by the increase in deaths from distracted driving. Fatalities in 2015 from distracted driving—such as texting while driving—increased by over 8 percent, while alcohol impaired driving fatalities rose 3 percent.
Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute, released the following statement:
The double-digit increase in traffic fatalities over the first half of 2016 suggests that the 2015 trend of increased fatal accidents from distracted driving has continued to grow. Traffic safety officials should view these numbers as a wake-up call to attack the distracted driving problem with the same level of commitment and ferocity that officials in the 1980s had to fighting the drunk driving problem. That problem has now been reduced to what Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has called “a hard core of alcoholics who do not respond to public appeals.” Yet, too often it still feels like our traffic safety policies are still stuck in the 1980s and have failed to keep pace with new and emerging threats. It’s time for a fresh strategy and focus when it comes to making our roads safer. Instead of focusing limited resources on failed policies like sobriety checkpoints, ignition interlocks for low-BAC, first-time offenders, or new attempts to lower the legal limit to .05, the traffic safety community—including activist groups like MADD—must take an aggressive approach to the most significant traffic safety threats of the new millennium. This includes not just a new emphasis on combatting distracted driving, but also a renewed commitment to policies that target the hard core drunk driving offenders who cause the vast majority of alcohol-related fatalities.