Recently, America has experienced the largest traffic death spike in five decades. One would be forgiven for assuming the primary cause of this spike is an increase in the consumption of drugs and alcohol while driving. Instead, evidence points to a particular, dangerous form of distracted driving as a primary cause in the recent uptick in traffic deaths.
Namely, the rise of mobile apps has also led to the largest traffic death increase in 50 years. Taken at first glance, this may come as a shock since society tends to assume that the rise of mobile technology has only bettered our lives. Dig deeper, and the data suggests a combination of apps and easily accessible car Wi-Fi led to this surge in highway fatalities.
What the Data Suggests About App Usage’s Impact on Traffic Safety
For four decades, traffic deaths were on a steady decline, thanks to necessary improvements to vehicle safety and similarly important initiatives. As such, it has been a foregone conclusion for a while that, as vehicle designs improve, death rates will continue to fall. It seems that modern technology, the Internet, and mobile apps have combined to undo this progress towards safer roads.
In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded the largest annual percentage increase of traffic deaths in 50 years. In 2016, the numbers worsened, suggesting this is not a one-year statistical anomaly. The first six months of 2016 led to a jump of 10.4% in highway deaths compared to 2015, which was already an unprecedented year of traffic deaths. These findings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prompted the agency’s head, Mark Rosekind, to opine that “this is a crisis that needs to be addressed now.”
Many leading authorities believe it is apps and increased mobile use while driving that is causing this accident surge. The issue of phones and car safety are not new ones. Distracted driving has been a part of the national conversation since phone calls and texts while driving became commonplace. Still, the solution to those distracted driving issues focused on allowing drivers to communicate hands-free, ensuring their hands remained firmly on the wheel. There is no such technology to incentivize drivers from using the Internet or their preferred apps while driving.
To combat this dangerous driving behavior, the Department of Transportation is teaming with the National Safety Council and similar advocacy groups with their “Road to Zero” strategy. This ambitious endeavor launched in October of 2016, aims to eliminate roadway fatalities within the next three decades. For the time being, too many Alabama families and families across the country are mornings the losses caused by app-based distracted driving.
Reducing the Risk of Distracted Driving Deaths in Alabama
Today, drivers use their phones to check their favorite apps. Examples of popular apps for drivers to use on the road include:
- Google Maps
- And More
Even mobile game Pokemon Go has garnered the world’s attention — and become a deserved concern for distracted driving in the process. This simple and addicting game has led to a rash of car injuries as distracted drivers obsessively hunt for the latest Pokemon to add to their collection.
Simply put, distracted driving is a problem that must be reduced to better protect the lives of Alabamans and Americans across the country. To that end, voluntary guidelines unveiled by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) seeks to lock out most apps when a phone is being used in a vehicle. At present, these guidelines (issued in November of 2016) are strictly voluntary, allowing smartphone makers and Silicon Valley to self-police and reduce the dangers their apps pose.
Additionally, the NHTSA wishes to make car infotainment systems pair effortlessly with smartphones, reducing the need for hands-on app use that leads to dangerously distracted driving behaviors. Should the NHTSA get its way, drivers will still be able to make phone calls, but additional hands-on features would lock, including:
- Internet Browsing
- Video Viewing That Is Not Driving-Related
Navigation systems would be allowed under these proposed guidelines, but even navigation systems would implement guidelines designed to avoid driver distraction while relying on their preferred form of navigation assistance. According to NHTSA head Mark Rosekind, these initiatives are meant to ensure that “mobile devices are designed to keep drivers’ eyes where they belong — on the road.
Fortunately, automakers already seem to be moving in a direction that prioritizes user safety while minimizing the risks of distracted driving. Examples of some of the progress made include offering Apple CarPlay and Android’s competing solution, Android Auto. These technological innovations make it possible for drivers to pair their smartphone to a car’s touchscreen. Ideally, this will minimize the use of phone apps while driving.
The NHTSA is not content with the current state of affairs, however, which is why they want to work with app makers to create new technology to disable app features and functionality while driving. At present, however, the NHTSA hopes to work with phone makers to create a “driver mode” feature that a smartphone user activates to prevent distracted driving functionality.
While these guidelines are positive developments, it is yet to be seen whether or not the guidelines will be put into place. The NHTSA is taking public comment for 60 days before making a final determination as to whether the guidelines will be implemented. But, for the time being, it appears that authorities are serious in their efforts to stop this once in 5 decades surge of traffic deaths.
If you or a loved one has been injured by an Alabama driver who was distracted by an app or texting, Alabama injury attorney Noel B. Leonard will pursue your right to receive compensation for your injuries or loved one’s loss of life. From his Foley office, Noel represents Alabama auto accident victims in Foley as well as Baldwin, Mobile, and Escambia Counties.
Contact Alabama injury lawyer Noel B. Leonard or call 251-943-8638 for a legal consultation to discuss your Alabama distracted driving accident case today.