During the first six months of 2016, there was a 10.4 percent increase in the number of car accident deaths as compared with the first six months of 2015. This increase meant 17,775 people died on U.S. roads in just a six month period of time. This was the biggest annual percentage increase in traffic fatalities over the course of the past 50 years. There were a lot of proposed reasons aimed at explaining why the increase in collisions was so substantial. Some suggested it was simply that more people were driving, but this explanation is an incomplete one, as the percent increase in fatalities from year-to-year was greater than the percent increase in total accidents that occurred.
One possible explanation put forth by the New York Times from many driving safety advocates, is the rise in mobile technology. This is a good explanation, and a likely explanation, for why car accident fatality risks have gone up so much despite a steady history of declining auto accident deaths.
There are many good reason to believe mobile technology is responsible for the spike in auto accident fatalities. One big reason this theory makes sense is there are simply many more motorists using smartphones and other in vehicle technology than in the past. According to PC World, for example, 68 percent of adult Americans have a smartphone now. Just four years ago, only 35 percent had a smart phone.
There have also been many more apps developed which actually encourage drivers to use their phones while in the car. For example, New York Times points out features on Snapchat which allow motorists to share their speed while driving. Another app, Waze, is designed to alert motorists to traffic jams and to other things like a police officer patrolling or a car stopped on the side of the road. Waze gives motorists points for rewarding things they see while driving, which naturally encourages people to use their phones while driving to make these reports Pokemon Go is also a game designed to be played on-the-go, including in the car.
Finally, more and more vehicles are being equipped with in-car technologies like infotainment systems. While these are theoretically intended to be "safe" because they allow for voice control and thus drivers can use them hands-free, they probably are not actually that safe after all because using an infotainment system can still be a distraction. In fact, according to NY Times, the president of the National Safety Council, who is also the former chairwoman of the federal National Transportation Safety Board believes that it is: "not clear how much those various technologies reduced distraction - or, instead, [if the technologies] encouraged people to use even more functions on their phones while driving."
Drivers who use technology while operating their vehicles are taking a big risk. If these motorists contribute to rising injury and fatality rates and cause a collision to occur while driving distracted, they could be held accountable for the harm they cause.