Highways becoming a deadly place

Just when we thought it was safe to go out onto the nation’s highways, we now learn the number of people killed each year is increasing.

According to a recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety cited in an Associated Press story, U.S. traffic deaths rose 7 percent to 35,092 in 2015, the largest single-year increase in 50 years. They’re expected to rise again in 2016 when that data is finalized in the coming months.

More than half of drivers in every age group have texted behind the wheel, run a red light or driven faster than the speed limit in the last 30 days, the AP story stated.

Drivers ages 19 to 24 are the worst offenders with 80 percent admitting to at least one instance of the cited behavior in the past month.

But it wasn’t just younger motorists behaving badly, with 10 percent of drivers between 60 and 74 conceding that they texted or sent email from behind the wheel, while 37 percent of drivers over 75 said they’d driven through a light that had just turned red, AP stated.

“It was a surprise that there were relatively high rates of these behaviors among the drivers we think of as safer,” Lindsay Arnold, a research associate with the AAA Foundation, said in the AP story on the matter.

Although it’s unclear what factor, or factors, have contributed to the troubling trend, one obvious influence may be the proliferation of mobile devices that enable the kind of behaviors cited above.

Everyone, it seems, has smart phones these days and national networks make instant communications easy — and dangerous.

Another might be the reduced cost of gasoline, prompting more trips — and deaths.

Under any circumstance, motorist awareness and safety must increase. How that will happen is unclear.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette