Distracted driving is also suspected to be a factor, "but the distraction data is very, very difficult to get," she said.
Cars are safer than ever, with an array of new high-tech safety systems beginning to permeate the new car market. But many of the causes of highway deaths remain unchanged: Drivers not wearing seatbelts, drunk driving, inexperienced teen drivers, unsafe trucks and motorcyclists not wearing helmets, said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
"I don't buy this theory that, 'Oh, we have safer cars, what else can we do?'" Gillan said. "There are many more things we can do. It's not rocket science. We know what the cure is."
The estimated cost of motor vehicle deaths, injuries and property damage in 2012 was $276.6 billion, the council said. The costs include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs, and property damage.
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