Distracted Driving Leads to Biggest Increase in Traffic Deaths in 50 Years

Cars on the Freeway

Distracted drivers kill thousands of people every single year – 3,179 in 2014 alone according to the United States Department of Transportation, to be precise. Another 431,000 were injured in crashes caused by distracted drivers, and those numbers are only increasing according to official reports. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released their traffic fatality statistics from 2015 earlier this year which showed that 35,092 people were killed in accidents compared to the 32,675 killed in 2014.

This 7.2 percent jump is the largest single-year increase in traffic fatalities since 1966, but early reports of 2016’s figures look to dwarf even that. According to the NHTSA, highway deaths from the first half of 2016 are up 10.4 percent, 17,775 deaths, from the comparable period from 2015.

This recent uptick in traffic-related deaths marks a distinct change in recent accident trends. 42,708 people died in accidents just 10 years ago, a 25 percent increase from the number of deaths we see on the road today. Things like improved safety features in vehicles, a crackdown on drunk drivers and increased awareness about the importance of seatbelts helped push the numbers as low as they are now, but the increased proliferation of smartphones and mobile technology has had a devastating effect on the number of distracted driving-related crashes.

Apps like Snapchat include a filter that displays the speed at which you are travelling, something that has encouraged negligent drivers to record themselves at high speeds – the Florida Highway Patrol is currently investigating a crash that occurred on October 26 near Tampa where the driver lost control, crossed over the median of the road and collided head-on with a minivan, killing five people and seriously injuring two more. A passenger from the speeding vehicle posted a video to their Snapchat with the speed filter showing speeds of 115 miles per hour just before the crash.

Even some navigation apps seemingly encourage distraction – the popular app Waze gives users points whenever they report accidents or traffic jams, two things that require more than just the tap of a button to do.

A growing number of newer vehicles use software that connects smartphones to the vehicles, most often via Bluetooth or cable, and allows drivers to use hands-free options to do everything from dictate a text to use an app with built-in hands-free options. Some companies, like Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Ford have their own systems in place, while others tap into and allow the use of virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri. However, it’s going to take more than just software and hardware updates to properly tackle this problem – it’s going to take legislative changes that take distracted driving as seriously as drunk driving or driving without a seatbelt. Anthony Foxx, the Transportation Secretary under the Obama administration commented on the NHTSA figures released earlier this year, saying that:

“Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year. Solving this problem will take teamwork, so we’re issuing a call to action and asking researchers, safety experts, data scientists, and the public to analyze the fatality data and help find ways to prevent these tragedies.”

Legislative changes can take years to be put into action, and with the upcoming transition from the Obama administration, it’s unclear whether or not Trump’s currently unannounced transportation secretary will have the same priorities as Foxx and his team of highway safety officials. Unfortunately, even the strictest laws can’t stop every negligent driver from causing a collision.

Our New York car accident attorneys at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., have dedicated their careers to helping injured victims secure the compensation they need following a catastrophic crash. If you were seriously injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, give us a call at (212) 577-9325 to speak with a member of our firm, or fill out our online form to get started with a free case evaluation.

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For over 40 years, David H. Perecman has distinguished himself as one of the leading personal injury lawyers in New York City, championing all types of personal injury cases including construction accidents, premises accidents, automobile accidents, and medical malpractice, along with employment discrimination, false arrest, and civil rights cases.