Traffic deaths spike is being correlated with the increased use of technology on the roadways. Last year we saw the largest increase in 50 years. This year’s numbers are even worse. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped 10.4 percent, to 17,775, from the comparable period of 2015.
A decade ago, distracted driving became an epidemic from people who made calls or sent texts from their cellphones. With the advent of hand’s free access to phones via Wi-Fi applications, came a boom in internet use in vehicles that safety experts say is contributing to a spike in traffic deaths. Use of Wi-Fi allows for the use of other apps on a cell phone.
A messaging app called Snapchat allows motorists to post photos that record the speed of their vehicle. The navigation app Waze rewards drivers with points when they report traffic jams and accidents. The game Pokémon Go has drivers searching for virtual creatures on the nation’s highways. These apps continue to be associated with the traffic deaths spike we have been seeing over the past few years.
On October 26th, a crash near Tampa that killed five people is currently being investigated by The Florida Highway Patrol. A passenger in the vehicle recorded a Snapchat video showing her vehicle traveling at 115 m.p.h. right before the crash.
In Georgia, a teenage driver has been accused of using Snapchat while driving more than 100 m.p.h. in September 2015. The car collided with the car of an Uber driver, who was seriously injured. After the crash, the teenager posted a photo of herself with blood running down her forehead and the caption, “Lucky to be alive”. This selfie went viral and is a component of a lawsuit filed by the victim after sustaining a severe traumatic brain injury. The victim had a five-week stay in the intensive-care unit to be treated for his injury.
These are examples of how distracted driving is leading to a spike in traffic deaths. The debate continues as the problem grows. Because of the dangers associated with driving while distracted, experts are pushing to treat it like drunken driving. In October, the Department of Transportation outlined a plan to work with the National Safety Council and other advocacy groups to devise a “Road to Zero” strategy with the goal of eliminating roadway fatalities within 30 years.
Until then, put our phones away, we need to drive defensively, and always pay attention to the road in front of us. Anything can happen at a moment’s notice and if you are distracted, it could be fatal.