According to safety experts, the increase in fatal traffic collisions over the past several years may be due to increased numbers of drivers distracted by smartphone apps.
With smartphones in the hands of more Americans than ever before, the temptation to drive while distracted is at an all-time high. While texting has long been seen as the main culprit behind distracted driving accidents, safety officials and insurance companies are claiming that apps like Waze, Snapchat, Instagram, and even games like Pokémon Go are equally distracting, leading to devastating collisions.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published in the New York Times, apps in 2015 have likely contributed to the greatest national spike in traffic deaths in more than 50 years. From January to June 2016, highway deaths jumped by 10.4% over the same period last year. This was after a 7.2% increase in 2015 after years of decline.
Many Apps Encourage Use While Driving
While most smartphone apps and those built into modern cars have disclaimers, the features found within many apps contradict this warning and reward users for using the app while driving. For example, the GPS app Waze gives drivers points for every traffic jam, accident, or hazard they report. An even more dangerous example is Snapchat, which contains a photo filter that allows users to send pictures displaying the speed of their vehicle. Even apps like Pokémon Go have people looking at their phones behind the wheel searching for nearby digital monsters to catch.
As a result of these dangers, the NHTSA has devised a safety strategy dubbed “Road to Zero” which aims to completely eliminate roadway fatalities over the next 30 years. “This is a crisis that needs to be addressed now,” said NHTSA Director Mark R. Rosekind. The plan will focus on identifying and implementing changes in regulations, laws, and standards to increase road safety, as well as speeding up the introduction of self-driving technologies.
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