Safer Passage

Traffic deaths have fallen to record lows. Will distracted driving shift the trend?

America's roadways are safer than ever. The latest data show that traffic fatalities are at their lowest level since 1949 and that the death rate based on miles traveled is the lowest in history. But technologies such as active safety systems and advanced air bags are being offset by auto safety's newest enemy: distracted drivers using electronic devices behind the wheel.

"We lost over 3,000 in 2010 to distraction-related crashes," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Strickland says. "It's a heightened risk to the public, and it's growing exponentially."

New guidelines proposed in February by the Transportation Department would encourage...

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