US traffic fatalities top 40,000 for 3rd straight year

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) Sancy Shaw, a mother of four and a school teacher, was killed when a driver drifted across a median and slammed into her car Christmas Eve in Colorado. Her death hit her family and students hard.

"Lots of tears, lots of heartache," friend Libby Meyring said. "She was so well-loved."

Shaw's was just one of 40,000 traffic deaths nationwide in 2018, a slight drop from 2017 and 2016 when more than 40,200 people were killed.

The National Safety Council says the number of deaths is still up 14 percent from 2015.

"Every day in our country we lose 100 people on our roadways," said Kelly Nantel, vice president of the National Safety Council.

Seven states and the District of Columbia had a 5.8 percent spike in motor vehicle deaths. Some of the biggest mistakes drivers made were distracted driving and getting behind the wheel after drinking.

The National Safety Council says marijuana impairment is becoming a bigger concern as more states like California pass laws legalizing its use.

"In a survey that we did of drivers in 2017, we found that 13 percent of the drivers we surveyed said in the previous three months they had either used medical or recreational marijuana and driven their vehicles," Nantel said.

Nantel says drivers can improve their own safety right away by buckling up and slowing down especially in bad weather.

The number of traffic deaths declined in Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wyoming.