Why is the car accident death rate rising? This is a big question that every motorist has to grapple with. Finding the answer is essential, because the death rate in car accidents for January to June of 2016 was 10.4 percent higher as compared with January to June of 2015. According to New York Times, the rise in the number of vehicle deaths was the biggest year-to-year increase in 50 years! An estimated 17,775 people died in car accidents in just this first six months of the year alone, and there were expected to be significantly more deaths during the second half of the year because bad winter weather and a holiday season with high accident rates always add to the death toll in the later months.
The economy is improving and more people are driving, so this increase in miles driven is put forth as one theory for why car accident deaths are going up. Unfortunately, the percent increase in deaths is far greater than the percent increase in total miles driven. This means there must be another explanation.
That other explanation is troubling. Evidence suggests it is the rise in distracted driving causing a big increase in the number of people dying in cars. This is a big problem, because it seems clear drivers aren't giving up their phones and because this problem is only likely to get worse as mobile technology becomes even more pervasive in every aspect of people's lives!
Four years ago, 35 percent of adults had a smartphone in the United States. Now, PC World indicates 68 percent of adults have a smartphone. More people buy smartphones every day, and more apps for these phones are developed. Some of the apps, like an app called Waze that gives motorists points for reporting traffic accidents, are specifically meant to be used in the car. Others, like Snapchat, end up being used in the car with devastating results. One teen took a Snapchat video of herself going more than 100 MPH... shortly before she got into a crash that killed five people.
The consequences of all this phone use are dire. National Safety Council (NSC) indicates 26 percent of all car accidents today involve a driver who was using a phone. At any given time on the roads, nine percent of drivers are using their phone, so this is not a surprising figure and it may actually underestimate the actual scope of the problem since not every driver who causes a crash admits to being on his phone at the time.
In vehicle infotainment systems are supposed to theoretically help solve this problem because they are hands-free. However, NSC cautions drivers that hands free still isn't safe, due to the inability of the brain to multi-task. Further, New York Times reports the president of the National Safety Council believes these infotainment systems are causing more distracted driving crashes by encouraging motorists to engage more with their phones.
The only thing that will stop the rising car accident risks due to mobile technology is if drivers stop using it while driving. Sadly, this seems unlikely to happen even as fatality rates rise!