No one who has followed the career of Deborah Hersman will be surprised to find her reading between the lines of her own National Safety Council report showing a sobering increase in traffic fatalities this year.
“We know it’s very prevalent,” Hersman told a Post columnist. “We know that the people that we’re friends with, our family, people we love, we know people are doing this even though they shouldn’t be. And our surveys bear that out.”
Hersman made headlines at the National Transportation Safety Board when she called for a total ban on cell phone use by drivers. Her boss at the Department of Transportation, an activist in the war on distracted driving, didn’t back her.
At the NSC, Hersman has continued to put out the word that any cell phone use by motorists creates a dangerous situation — regardless of whether a hands-free device is employed.
Hersman told the Post there’s no smoking gun in the NSC report because distracted drivers often lie about their use of electronic devices when involved in crashes: “We know that this data is flawed in crash reports,” she said.
About 19,100 people have been killed on U.S. roads since January, and 2.2 million were seriously injured, the NSC reported Aug. 23.
The continued rise in fatalities caused the council to issue its highest fatality estimate for the Labor Day holiday period since 2008.
“Our complacency is killing us,” Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, said in a news release. “One hundred deaths every day should outrage us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death.”
She told the Post: “The carnage on our roadways should light a fire under our legislators, regulators and law enforcement to do even more.”
Still, the NSC news release about the fatalities didn’t cite distracted driving as a cause: “While many factors likely contributed to the fatality increase, a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates are at the core of the trend.”