Distracted driving is probably more prevalent than reported. This is the topic of an article published in the Insurance Journal this week. During the last few years, a number of reports have interpreted the auto accident data in the U.S. as an indication that distracted driving is decreasing. Most have argued that the culprits in most crashes are drunk driving and speeding. This article in the Insurance Journal by Kyle Stock argues that the true cause of many accidents is not being reported.
“During the past two years, after decades of declining deaths on the road, U.S. traffic fatalities surged by 14.4 percent,” according to the article. The rising number of fatal crashes does not match small increases in total miles driven, speeding or drunk driving. The author points to three “big clues” to the cause of increasing traffic deaths:
- Significant increases in smartphone use by U.S. drivers WHILE driving.
- The way people use their phones while driving has also changed. For the most part, people no longer just speak on the phone in conversation. The use of phones has shifted to texting, tweeting, posting on Facebook and Instagram, etc. These actions require far more attention from the driver than simply holding a phone to their ears. Today, nearly 80 percent of Americans use their phones to interact on social media.
- The primary increases in fatalities have involved pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. These people are far more difficult to see than a car or SUV. For example, the article points out that “Last year, 5,987 pedestrians were killed by cars in the U.S., almost 1,100 more than in 2014 — a 22 percent increase in just two years. . . Fatalities increased inordinately among motorcyclists (up 6.2 percent in 2016) and pedestrians (up 9 percent).”
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) relies upon data provided by the individual states. Each state has its own methods and guidelines for reporting accident causes. Yet “only 11 states use reporting forms that contain a field to tick-off mobile phone distraction, while 27 have a space to note distraction in general as a potential cause of the accident.”
The article provides additional information supporting the claim that distracted driving is more prevalent than reported and that phone-related distracted driving auto accidents are underreported. Clearly, police departments throughout the nation need to come together with the NHTSA and other reporting agencies to develop consistent reporting of phone-related distracted driving as accident causes.
Drivers also need to heed the warning and put down the phones and leave them out of reach while driving. Among the most common reasons given for using a phone while driving include excuses such as “I do it all the time without having an accident,” “I had to answer this right now,” and “everybody else does it, why shouldn’t I?” When lives are at stake, these are unreasonable excuses for phone use while driving.
Until drivers take seriously the danger of distracted driving due to phone use and law enforcement systematizes reporting of phone-involved distracted driving, the true cost in human lives will remain underappreciated. Let’s all, please, put down the phones when driving.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident caused by phone-related distracted driving, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Call the experienced and trusted attorneys of Altizer Law, P.C. Bettina and Terri are here to help you obtain justice.