MA Roads Safer – Distracted Driving Low But Rising

MA Driving Safety ReportGood news for all MA drivers: new data released this month from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that fatal crashes throughout much of the country – including Massachusetts – are on the decline.

But while MA roads are getting safer on the whole, distracted driving rates continue to rise and suggest potential problems in the future. Read on for all the data related to Massachusetts, plus a quick overview of what it means for you and your fellow Bay State commuters.

The Good News for MA

Across the country, fatalities from motor vehicle accidents are dropping fast – in 2010, the number fell to 32,885, the lowest since 1949. Non-fatal accidents are down, too, when compared to last year – a 1.6% drop.

Massachusetts saw a big decrease in fatal accidents last year: a 7.6% drop compared to 2009, totaling just 314 – which is an even bigger drop compared to the 364 in 2008. And while MA is headed in the right direction, the same can’t be said about our neighbors. Sadly, Connecticut recorded the largest increase of any state in the union: a 42% increase.

The Bad News for MA

While fewer crashes are happening in MA, not all the statistics in the Traffic Safety Administration’s report are promising. Distracted driving, and more specifically drivers speaking on their cell phones or texting on them, continues to rise.

This comes despite the fact that studies have shown distracted drivers take, on average, an extra 36 to 70 feet in braking distance – a huge amount, especially compared to drunk drivers who take, on average, an extra 4 feet.

Data collection for distracted driving is still in its infancy, so it’s tough to draw firm conclusions until there’s more to study. But what we do know is that drivers in the Northeast seen talking while driving is up since last year, as is the number of those seen texting.

According to the NHTSA report, distracted driving is worst in southern and western states, and it remains a relatively rare occurrence. The data suggests that it accounts for less than 1% of drivers in the Northeast. How accurate that number is, however, is debatable. As distracted driving surveys continue to be taken, more accurate numbers will likely be available in the future.

Other Takeaways

The reports also included extra highlights:

  • Safer Saturday Nights – 78% of the total decline came from a drop in weekend accidents & nighttime crashes declined by 86% over last year
  • Only the Good Ride Young – Motorcycle fatalities for riders under 50 dropped by 84, while those over 50 rose by 119
  • The Kids Are Alright – 39% decrease in fatalities for young drivers over the past 5 years

For more information, view the reports anytime at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/.

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