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Survey Says, Driving Deaths Down 22 Percent

Three independent research studies are offering up some interesting data about how Americans are driving. The good news is that from 2005 to 2009, overall automotive fatalities are down 22 percent.

Some of that has to do with the fact that people are using their seatbelts. A study by the Centers for Disease Control found that 85 percent of drivers surveyed say they buckle up.

Disturbingly, however, work at the University of North Texas Health Science Center found that from 2001 to 2009, there were 16,000 automotive deaths directly linked to cell phone use. The scary part is that 5,800 of those happened in 2009 alone. Yikes! Headsets people. Handsfree!

At the University of Michigan, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle do point out that federal statistics on distracted driving include all forms — like eating in the car, or my personal favorite, putting on make-up.

They attribute the overall drop in driving deaths not just to better safety habits like seatbelt use, but also to economic factors like high gas prices in 2008 and the recession in 2009 and 2010. Americans are driving less because it just costs too much to feed their vehicles and they’re staying closer to home, opting for “stay-cations” over “vacations.”

One thing is clear, our driving habits and behaviors are changing. We’re using our cars in different ways and doing different things in our cars. The insurance ramifications are likely to be mixed, with citations for things like texting while driving upping your risk profile more than in years past. In general, however, with fatalities decreasing, premiums should remain relatively stable in the presence of a clean driving record.

However, no prediction is really clear these days. That same economic trend that may be driving down deaths? It’s also effecting what you pay because increasingly insurers are using credit scores to determine all kinds of insurance premiums.

What can we say conclusively? Times. They are a changing.

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