In the first five months of 2012, fatal car accidents in Greene County have increased by 53% compared to last year, reports the Missouri Highway Patrol. At the beginning of June 2011, there had been seven deadly crashes in the county. In comparison, as of June 2, 2012, there have been 23.
"I'm very surprised. It's one of the biggest jumps that we've ever seen," Matt Brown, spokesperson for the Springfield Police Department, told the News Leader. "And it's more alarming than surprising. We're very, very concerned as law enforcement, because it is such a large jump."
In a recent SPD news release, law enforcement officials identified driver distraction as a key contributor to this sharp increase in fatal accidents. More drivers are using cell phones behind the wheel, which makes them less likely to follow traffic laws and anticipate the actions of nearby motorists. Research has shown that talking on a cell phone while driving causes a 37% reduction in the amount of brain activity associated with driving, while drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash.
Given current accident trends, Greene County drivers will want to exercise special caution during the summer travel season, which invariably brings higher traffic volume to roadways in Missouri and nationwide. Below, you'll find a few tips designed to help keep you safe on the road in the busy months ahead.
Summertime Safety Tips for Drivers
• Avoid distractions.
Cell phones. Eating and drinking. Playing with the radio. Passengers. In the past five years, over seven million U.S. car accidents have been attributed to these distractions. Don't let other tasks tempt you when you're behind the wheel: when you drive, just drive.
• Protect your driving space.
Use the two-second rule to make sure there's an adequate distance between your vehicle and the vehicles traveling near you. Also, remember that tailgating and hasty lane changes create increased accident risks.
• Treat larger vehicles like "big rigs."
Most of us know that we have to be careful when we're driving alongside tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles. However, RVs and passenger vehicles pulling trailers or boats can be dangerous for the same reasons. If we're traveling in smaller passenger vehicles, we would do well to remember that we're outsized by many vehicles on the road, and to protect ourselves accordingly.