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More Awareness for the Auto Driver Today

Distracted driving

Concern is mounting about the effects of phone use and texting while driving.

Using a cellphone while driving increases crash risk. There is growing evidence that talking on a cellphone increases crash risk, though the connection hasn't been firmly established. Researchers have consistently linked texting or otherwise manipulating a cellphone to increased risk.

Bans on hand-held phone use and texting are increasingly common, but it is not clear that they reduce crashes. This is the case even though IIHS research has documented that bans on hand-held phone use reduce overall phone use. There is a disconnect between estimated crashes due to cellphone use and real-world crash trends, which indicate that crashes have been declining in recent years, even as driver phone use has increased.

Cellphones and texting aren’t the only things that can distract drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any activity that could divert attention from the primary task of driving. Besides using electronic gadgets, distractions also can include adjusting a radio, eating and drinking, reading, grooming, and interacting with passengers.


Older drivers

There are more drivers 70 and over today, but they crash less often than they used to.

Advancing age can bring impairments that affect driving ability. Drivers age 70 and older have higher crash rates per mile traveled than middle-aged drivers, though not as high as young drivers.

The number of drivers age 70 and older is growing. As baby boomers age, older people make up a bigger proportion of the population than they used to. In addition, older drivers are keeping their licenses longer.

Despite their growing numbers, older drivers are involved in fewer fatal collisions than in the past. A total of 4,192 people ages 70 and older died in crashes in 2014. That's 29 percent fewer than in 1997.

Many older drivers limit their driving. Surveys show that many people drive fewer miles and avoid night driving or other challenging situations as they get older. Some states require in-person license renewal for older drivers to help identify those who shouldn’t be driving or should have restricted licenses.



Speeding makes crashes more likely and more likely to be deadly.

More than 9,000 deaths — 28 percent of all crash fatalities — occurred in speed-related crashes in 2014. High speeds make a crash more likely because it takes longer to stop or slow down. They also make collisions more deadly because crash energy increases exponentially as speeds go up.

Raising speed limits leads to more deaths. People often drive faster than the speed limit, and if the limit is raised they will go faster still. Research shows that when speed limits are raised, speeds go up, as do fatal crashes.

Enforcement of speed limits helps keep speeds down. Traditional enforcement, which relies on police officers to measure speed with radar or other technology, has been joined recently by speed cameras. Speed cameras, which are used in more than 100 U.S. communities, have been shown to reduce speeds and crashes.


Vehicle size and weight

Bigger, heavier vehicles protect their occupants better.

A bigger, heavier vehicle provides better crash protection than a smaller, lighter one, assuming no other differences. Both size and weight affect the forces experienced by vehicle occupants during a crash. The magnitude of those forces is directly related to the risk of injury.

Large vehicles aren’t as big a threat to people in small vehicles as they used to be. A lighter vehicle will always be at a disadvantage in a collision with a heavier vehicle. But beyond weight, SUVs and pickups used to pose a bigger threat to car occupants because their energy-absorbing structures didn’t line up with those of cars. Voluntary design changes by automakers have largely solved this problem.

Fuel economy can be improved without sacrificing safety. Electric vehicles, hybrids, more efficient internal combustion engines and other technological advances can raise fuel efficiency without affecting occupant protection. Taking a small amount of weight off the heaviest vehicles while keeping size steady also improves fleetwide fuel economy without safety tradeoffs.


Denver, Colorado