More and more Americans are dying on our roads. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 37,461 people died in traffic fatalities in 2016. This is a 14.4% spike over the previous two years, after decades of declining death rates.
Why the sudden rise? It is likely that one of the major reasons for the rising number of traffic deaths on the roads is smart phones.
NHTSA traffic fatality statistics do not provide much clarity; at this time, the agency does not identify road fatalities due to distraction or mobile phone use. However, there are strong clues that electronic devices could well be a leading cause of many deadly motor vehicle accidents.
Below, we analyze why this may be.
Neale & Fhima distracted driving attorneys often represent car accident victims who suffered devastating personal injuries from the negligent actions of a distracted driver on a smart phone. If you suffered a personal injury due to the distracted driving of another party, please give us a call today: 949-661-1007.
Major Increase in Smart Phone Use and How We Use Them
First, smart phones are used much more today than just a few years ago. As technology has improved and prices have fallen, the percentage of Americans who use an iPhone or Android device has risen from 75% to 81% from 2014 to 2016.
Second, Americans are using phones differently when they get behind the wheel. Most of us use a cell phone for more than just talking. Texting, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites and activities are what occupy drivers the most. The problem is that each of these complex tasks requires drivers to divert attention from the essential tasks of safe driving.
Third, the largest increase in personal injuries and fatalities has been for motorcyclists, bikers and pedestrians. All of them are easier to miss if you are distracted from driving by texting your friend on a smart phone. This is confirmed by the fact that 5,987 pedestrians died in car accidents in 2016, which is a 22% increase from the year before.
Reliable Distracted Driving Data Difficult to Come By
It is clear that using a smart phone behind the wheel is dangerous, but determining exactly how much smart phone use impacts highway safety. Mobile phone traffic is drifting away from voice communication to texting and social network surfing, making it difficult for public officials to have a clear idea of how many deaths are definitely being caused by smart phone use.
NHTSA data from 2015 showed just 448 deaths directly linked to a smart phone. This is a mere 1.4% of all traffic deaths. But safety advocates say that mobile phones are likely much more of a fatal problem than this.
An analysis of NHTSA data for 2015 shows that at least 50% of the accidents involved a driver who was simply headed straight down the road. There was no traffic in the way, no bad weather, or blowouts.
Additionally, drivers in fatal accidents were more often hitting relatively small things, such as cyclists or pedestrians — things that might be easy to miss if you are distracted by a mobile device.
Finally, a study by the nonprofit National Safety Council determined that just one-half of deadly crashes that were related to using a mobile device were properly coded in the NHTSA database. Bottom line: The NHTSA’s published figures for distracted driving deaths are too low.
What Can Be Done To Save Lives
If we are to reduce the number of motor vehicle deaths due to smart phone use, drivers need to follow the suggestions of the University of California Davis:
- When driving, use your cell phone only for an emergency. And you should pull over to the side for that purpose.
- Put your phone out of reach while you are driving.
- Block incoming texts and calls with an app.
- If you use a smart phone for GPS, have it mounted on your dashboard.
- Make a 100% commitment to never use your phone while driving.
If more drivers would commit to these actions, it is likely that deaths due to smart phone use would decline.
Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers in Southern California
Neale & Fhima is an experienced distracted driving law firm serving Southern California, with offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco. Our attorneys can assist if you have been injured due to a distracted driver on a smart phone. If you need legal advice about an accident with a distracted driver, please call 949-661-1007 or complete the contact form below.