Smartphones likely contributing to rising number of traffic deaths

by Matt Klassen on November 27, 2015

As much as I would have thought recent legislation, public awareness programs, and those pesky police officers dishing out hefty fines would have made people aware that using a smartphone while driving is incredibly dangerous and that distracted driving is a huge contributor to traffic fatalities, well it looks like such vital information simply hasn’t stuck in our collective consciousness.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of overall deaths from traffic accidents in the United States jumped 8.1 percent in the first half of 2015, with preliminary results showing that a confluence of lower gas prices, a recovering economy, and a multitude of distractions like smartphones may be to blame.

In fact, the death toll from January to June reached 16,225 across the US, representing the biggest six-month increase in traffic deaths since 1977, following 2014 which had posted some of the lowest totals since records started being kept in 1975, adding more evidence to the claim that smartphones and driving just don’t mix.

Before I continue let’s say a few things about cars, distraction, and mobile technology that you may not have known before: First, don’t use your smartphone while driving, ever. It’s a really dumb idea, it gets your eyes off the road, and it results in thousands of pointless deaths every year. Just don’t do it.

Second, hands-free options are just as (if not more) dangerous as using your smartphone while driving, as studies have found that voice-activated smartphones, hands-free texting options, and other services delivered by in-car infotainment platforms require far more concentration than using your smartphone to begin with, meaning more time you’re not thinking about controlling that projectile hurling down the road at 100 km/h that you’re currently strapped into.

All that to say, distractions while driving, whatever form they might come in, kill people, and it would behove us to recognize that before anymore people lose their lives because of it.

Granted the report from the NHTSA doesn’t definitively pinpoint distracted driving as the main cause of the sharp increase in traffic related fatalities, but it’s fairly certain that distraction, coupled with who is actually doing the driving, plays a huge factor.

“The increase in smartphones in our hands is so significant, there’s no question that has to play some role. But we don’t have enough information yet to determine how big a role,” said Mark Rosekind, who heads the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal government’s auto safety watchdog.

According to Rosekind, apart from distracted driving is the possibility that lower gas prices have encouraged an increase in driving among “risky drivers,” such as teenagers, a dangerous confluence that has resulted in plenty of lost lives.

But kids and phones aren’t the only things to blame for this increase in traffic deaths, as Rosekind also criticized the lack of effective nationwide laws regarding distracted driving, adding that lax rules regarding safety equipment such as seatbelts and motorcycle helmets certainly don’t help either.

The fact of the matter is that despite the public awareness campaigns, despite the studies, despite the fines, despite the deaths, people don’t seem to know the dangers of distracted driving. So let this be my insignificant voice added to the growing chorus: Do us all a favour, while you’re driving, leave your phone alone!

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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