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Could NHTSA data point to increase in cell phone use by drivers?

Recent data released by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration showed there was an 8.1 increase in the number of fatal accidents in the United States in the first half of 2015 following a decrease in 2014. The increase was reportedly the biggest six-month jump in traffic fatalities reported since 1977.

It is speculated that the widespread use of smartphones may have had some role in the increase, though officials have said it is still too early determine exactly what factors are behind the increase. Regardless of what exactly was behind the increase, it is well known that cell phones continue to contribute to many accidents.

One reason for the prominent role of cell phones in car accidents is that they are a significant source of distraction for drivers. Even when a driver uses a hands-free device, talking on the phone while driving can significantly reduce the amount of attention a driver devotes to safe driving. Another reason is that the use of cell phones is so widespread. According to the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, which are particularly distracting when used for texting or surfing the Internet.

The problem of distracted driving is well known, of course, and states have engaged in multiple measures to address the problem, including increased law enforcement, public education efforts, and passing distracted driving laws. In our next post, we’ll take a look at New York’s distracted driving law and its relation to car accident negligence.

Sources:

New York Post, “More US drivers may be dying because of smartphones,” Nov. 25, 2015.

Pew Research Center, “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015,” Aaron Smith, April 1, 2015.

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