After steadily declining since the beginning of the millennium, deaths on U.S. roads began a reverse trend upward: 14.4 percent in the past two years.
Little has changed when it comes to driving per-se that could explain this increase, save one: our obsession with our smartphones. During the past few years – according to Bloomberg – use and ownership of smartphones has virtually exploded. We can now do anything on these mini computers that we used to do only on our old reliable desktops and laptops. You can’t go anywhere without seeing drivers stealing furtive glances at these devices, or pedestrians staring into their palms, hypnotized by these small screens and oblivious to their surroundings.
An even greater jump in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities the past two years – also noted by Bloomberg – further underscores the point that smartphone “addiction” (there’s really no other word for it) is so rampant, we’re killing each other through this distraction. Pedestrian deaths are up (22 percent), as well as bicycle and motorcycle fatalities (both up 15 percent since 2014) – all numbers courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They paint a pretty grim picture. With eight in ten Americans now owners of smartphones, “death by distraction” is likely to continue growing – exponentially!
A variety of reasons explain why mobile phones are – in practice – far deadlier than researchers warn. In more than half of fatal crashes that occurred in 2015, motorists were driving straight down the road with no obstacles or apparent diversions before them — no crossing traffic, inclement weather, or other “events.” And yet, they found themselves plowing into other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists – the latter of which travel on the side of the road or the sidewalk – with greater frequency. As a result, traffic fatalities involving motorcyclists (up 6.2 percent) and pedestrians (up 9 percent) rose significantly in 2016.
In a recent study, the National Safety Council says that only about half of fatal crashes it researched were tied to known mobile phone use. But the most chilling information comes from Zendrive Inc., a San Francisco firm that analyzes smartphone data to help insurers of commercial fleets assess safety risks. It studied three million people and found that drivers are using their mobile phones on 88 percent of trips (viewed as anything from a 500-mile journey to a jaunt to the convenience store for milk). And Zendrive didn’t even factor in distracted drivers who use hands-free devices, which come with their own safety warnings as well.
Now that the “misuse of smartphones” scourge is an accepted fact, one might think it would be easier to legislate temperance and put the devices in their place. But it’s not that easy, even though more states have banned texting and handheld device usage while behind the wheel.
Maybe it’s because our collective smartphone addiction has reached a point of almost universal acceptance. One comment from the executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association – which advocates the curbing of smartphone use in vehicles – underscores how hard it is to ban something that we all do, and want to do. “If you’re at a cocktail party and say, ‘I was so hammered the other day, and I got behind the wheel,’ people will be outraged. But if you say the same thing about using a cell phone, it won’t be a big deal. It’s acceptable, and that’s the problem.”
If you have suffered an injury because of a distracted driver in Kentucky and want to explore your legal options, call Billy Johnson. Contact us today at 1-606-433-0682, or fill out this online form to learn how we can help you. Your consultation is free, and we earn no fee unless we win your case.