More Cars, More Walkers and Bikes, More Distractions = Higher Traffic Deaths

More Cars, More Walkers and Bikes, More Distractions = Higher Traffic Deaths
PedestrianUse marked crosswalks: Eighty-two percent of pedestrian deaths occur outside the crosswalk.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2016 in traffic accidents. In 2015, more than 800 bicyclists lost their lives in motor vehicle-involved crashes. Pedestrian deaths shot up 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, bicyclist deaths by 13 percent – both more than any other category of traffic-related fatalities, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The cause of this deadly trend has been greatly debated, with different groups pointing to a stronger economy and hence more cars on the road, more people walking to work or for recreation, and distraction due to the skyrocketing use of smartphone technology. Meanwhile, most efforts to prevent distraction are focused on motor vehicle drivers and passengers rather than pedestrians and bicyclists.

Teens Account for 25 Percent Increase in Pedestrian Deaths Over Past Five Years
Financial AbuseBicycle fatalities have risen sharply for adults (especially men) 20 years or older since 1975. Click for large graph.
Even if a person is not behind a wheel, they can be at risk if walking while talking on a cell phone or listening to music through headphones. Among kids, teens account for 50 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the United States, and unintentional pedestrian traffic injuries are the fifth leading cause of fatalities for ages 5 to 19. Older teens have accounted for a staggering 25 percent increase in pedestrian injuries in the past five years. Over half of all adults have been involved in a distracted walking encounter.

Tips To Stay Safe
Walking or bicycling are healthy for both people and the environment. Perhaps that is why we’ve seen a 60 percent increase in commuter biking during the past decade. But while bicycle deaths among children have thankfully decreased by 88 percent since 1975, deaths among bicyclists age 20 and older have more than tripled. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind that will increase your chances of arriving safely at your destination, whether on foot or by pedal!
Look left, right and left again before crossing the street
Make eye contact with drivers of oncoming vehicles to make sure they see you
Be aware of drivers even when you’re in a crosswalk; vehicles have blind spots
Don’t wear headphones while walking or biking
Never use a cell phone or other electronic device while walking or biking
If your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic
Never rely on a car to stop
Only cross at designated crosswalks (82 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur outside crosswalks)
Wear bright and/or reflective clothing, especially at night
Always wear a helmet while biking
Walk in groups, if possible
Follow all traffic laws and road signs, and signal to turn

Restricting Your Rights Will Not Fix Medical Malpractice, Nursing Home Negligence

Jean Simmons kept moving her mother Betty from one nursing home to another after discovering mistreatment and neglect by her mother’s caregivers. When her mother died recently at a nursing home in East Texas, Ms. Simmons wanted justice for the woman who raised her while maybe preventing someone else’s parent from spending the waning years of life in misery.

But Texas – like more than 30 other states – has a cap on damages for medical malpractice and nursing home abuse cases, which effectively prevents Ms. Simmons from holding the nursing home company accountable. “It is a lose-lose, because your loved one is suffering and you don’t even want validation or money for it,” Simmons said. “You just want good care. And you still can’t get that.”

Medical Errors Pegged as Third Leading Cause of Death

Nursing Home AbuseMost medical negligence claims involve significant injury or death. Click for full view.

You’ve probably heard or read about nursing home abuse cases like that of Ms. Simmons, or stories about terrible mistakes at hospitals and clinics, or reports about medical devices that fail and cause serious injury or death.

So why in the world would anyone propose a new bill in Washington, D.C., that would make it nearly impossible for you to pursue lawsuits and hold insurance companies and big corporations accountable for these mistakes? But that’s exactly what this new legislation would do, capping damages on medical malpractice and nursing home abuse lawsuits to $250,000. Other restrictions would protect for-profit nursing homes, insurance providers and even caregivers who intentionally abuse a patient.

Supporters of these measures argue that they are necessary to deter greedy patients from exploiting doctors and health care facilities for personal gain. Many say that caps will keep health care costs down by reducing the amount of money paid out for medical malpractice lawsuits and insurance. But the experts tell a very different story.

  • Nearly half a million people die from preventable medical errors each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. In addition, 10 to 20 times more people are seriously injured. Caps do nothing to make health care safer and instead protect the financial interests of big corporations and insurance companies rather than save you money.
  • Lawyers are not filling the courts with frivolous medical malpractice and nursing home abuse lawsuits. Medical malpractice lawsuits are rare and make up only 0.2 to 2 percent of all civil cases each year, and that number continues to decrease.
  • Instead of lowering health care costs, research shows that costs have actually increased by about 4 to 5 percent in states with damage caps.

And something else you should know about these laws: They allow the federal government to override state laws that protect consumers and patients in favor of laws that protect corporate health care at the expense of patient safety.

Help Us Oppose Laws that Punish Those
Who Have Already Suffered

The founders of this country knew how important it was to arm the average citizen with the right to hold powerful special interests accountable in a court of law. Restricting that right in cases of negligent medical and nursing home care will only punish those who have already suffered enough while actually reducing the incentive for big corporations and insurance companies to address the epidemic of preventable medical errors.

Later this month, the House of Representatives will take the first step in restricting this right for all Americans by voting on House Resolution 1215. If passed, the bill will then move on to the Senate and eventually the President’s desk. We urge you to take a closer look at this legislation, and if you feel the same way as we do, contact your members of Congress and make your voice heard on this important issue.

Recent Spike in U.S. Traffic Deaths Reverses 40-Year Trend

Experts Looking for Answers to Rising Traffic Injuries, Deaths

Pedestrian Accident
Accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists are also on the rise.

Cheaper Gas, Better Economy, Distracted Driving Among Contributing Factors

For decades, auto accidents have trended downward. Road fatalities steadily declined from more than 50,000 annually in the early 70s to just over 30,000 in recent years. Credit goes to many advances in safety, including:
  • Crashworthy vehicles that better protect those involved in crashes
  • New technologies like anti-lock braking, vehicle stability controls and self-driving sensors that prevent crashes in the first place
  • Educational programs and tougher laws aimed at seatbelt use, teen drivers and driving while impaired

But starting in 2015, road safety hit the skids when the number of people lost in crashes jumped 7.2 percent from 2014, the largest percentage increase in 50 years. And the news for 2016 may be even worse as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently projected an 8 percent increase in traffic deaths for the first nine months of 2016 over 2015.

Some safety experts have blamed the increase on more drivers traveling more miles. Longer commutes and more road trips, coupled with cheaper gas and lower unemployment, add up to more drivers on the road. Even those not in vehicles are at a higher risk as car-pedestrian and bike fatalities have risen as well.

But NHTSA’s Administrator Mark Rosekind said he and his colleagues can’t accept that a better economy means more people are going to die on our roads. “We still have to figure out what is underlying those lives lost,” he said. To that end, NHTSA and the National Safety Council joined forces to launch the Road To Zero campaign in October, which aims to end all traffic fatalities in the U.S. in the next 30 years. This campaign provides grants to non-profits that help research and implement innovative highway safety measures.

Car Crash? There’s an App For That

The spike in traffic fatalities and accidents is often blamed on the use of smartphones. According to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, almost 80 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones. More than 600,000 of those people are operating a smartphone while driving at any given time.

Texting and driving have proven to be a dangerous combination, with 78 percent of distracted driving-related crashes attributed to texting drivers. However, dangers from non-texting apps that encourage driver interaction have also arisen.

The messaging app Snapchat features a speed filter that tells users how fast they are traveling, which some have argued encourages drivers to travel at unsafe speeds. A man who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a recent collision is suing both the other driver for her recklessness as well as Snapchat for encouraging the teen to drive at unsafe speeds. Waze, a navigation app, rewards users for reporting traffic jams and roadside obstructions while driving. The “Gotta Catch ’Em All” mentality of Pokémon Go has caused accidents when users ignored safety to play the game.

Protect Yourself and Others

Traditionally the six root causes of serious accidents are driver inattention, fatigue, impaired driving, speeding, aggressive driving and adverse weather conditions. With those factors in mind, here are some tips you can use to prevent traffic accidents and protect yourself and others:

  • Silence and put away all phones for the duration of your drive.
  • Keep your eyes on the road and leave the distractions at home.
  • When buying a new or used car, prioritize safety ratings and purchase cars with safety features. Also be sure to run a recall check on your car at SaferCar.gov.
  • If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist, pay attention to vehicle traffic even if you have the right of way. A distracted driver could mean disaster.
  • Follow all posted speed limits and wear your seat belt.
  • Always drive alert, awake and sober.