5.3% increase in 2012 -- and we're on track to increase even faster in 2013.
If they were interest rates, you'd shop for a new lender. If it were a fast-growing disease, you'd talk to your doctor, examine your lifestyle and make different decisions. You'd probably forewarn your family, your friends, maybe even your neighbors. You wouldn't want them touched by it or harmed by it.
And yet we ignore it. Worse yet, many of us unwittingly contribute to it, simply by accepting it as reality or even participating in the decisions that lead to it.
I'm talking about the rise in traffic fatalities, a rise so steep it's pushed "road injury" to one of the World Health Organization's top ten causes of death -- the only cause not originating from disease.
Yet Americans don't appear to be worried about it, a recent AAA study reveals. Somehow we accept that drunken, drowsy, distracted and aggressive driving are a given. We're more equipped than ever to fight back and yet? Despite the rise in traffic deaths, we're giving in.
What's worse, we're participating in this epidemic. While 80% of drivers say texting while driving is unacceptable, 25% admit doing it within the last month. Although 58% of drivers see using a cell phone while driving as a serious threat, 68% use the phone while at the wheel. Whereas 90% of drivers saw drinking as a safety violation in 2009, only 69% thought so last year.
Something needs to change -- and fast. Every day we face a top cause of death, simply by going to work, school or about our daily life.
What's the answer? Campaigns? PSAs? Pledges not to text, drink or act out while behind the wheel? I wish. But change is slow, and the AAA findings show that we're becoming complacent. It's like we've given up.
So what is the solution? Can't technology innovations help? The good news is they can.
Windshield wipers, air bags and anti-lock brakes are shining examples of safety features in the vehicle. But today, technology has gotten to a place where it can not only increase safety during a crash, but also help prevent them. When sensors collect data on risky driving events -- like rapid acceleration, hard braking, swerving and speeding -- that data can be analyzed and used to predict the likelihood of future collisions before they happen. When technology identifies risk, it gives fleet safety managers or individual drivers the insights they need to change the habits that threaten safety on our roads today, giving drivers new know-how and helping to keep them on the right side of the "rising danger" line.
As the AAA study shows, people aren't facing the facts. But we need to wake up. As you look at the traffic that flows through your neighborhood each day, as you merge onto the freeway and wonder what's really going on inside those other cars, as you think about your family members driving or being driven on roads where risks are only increasing -- why aren't you angry, and what will you do about it?
Whatever you do to take control of your own driving safety, be aware that other drivers are not as concerned as they should be. Their habits -- and the rise in driving danger -- aren't going to change until they face their own risky behavior. The combination of technology and active driver education proves that there is an innovative solution -- predictive analytics -- which can benefit fleets, municipalities, delivery services and individual drivers who are committed to safety.
What can you do? Question how your municipalities and the service providers that put fleets onto your roads are ensuring that drivers uphold the safety standards their professions should demand. Keep your own commitment to making safety your focal point whenever you're behind the wheel. And be concerned by the fact that your risk is rising at an unprecedented rate. Only by believing that the rise in traffic accidents can -- and must -- be prevented can we all work together to make the change and reverse the growing dangers of unsafe driving.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Harvard School of Public Health in an effort to call more attention to the dangers of texting while driving. Distracted driving is the cause of 350,000 crashes per year, and the series will be putting a spotlight on efforts being made to combat the crisis by the public and private sectors and the academic and nonprofit worlds. In addition to original reporting on the subject, we'll feature at least one post a day every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; for more information on the national effort, click here.
And if you'd like to share your story or observation, please send us your 500-850-word post to impactblogs@huffingtonpost.
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