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Using Smartphones While Driving Could Be Contributing to Rising Traffic Fatality Rates

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic fatalities are on the rise. Specifically, the motor vehicle death toll on U.S. roadways has increased by 5.6% since 2015. While many factors play a part in this disturbing trend, smartphone usage by drivers is an increasing cause for concern. In fact, in the past 2 years, smartphone usage has grown tremendously. It is estimated that around 80% of Americans currently use phones to follow news and share photos on social media accounts.

Even though texting while driving is strictly prohibited in 47 states, using hands-on smartphones while driving is illegal in just 15 states. The data suggests that using a phone at all while driving can have significant and fatal consequences. A recent article by Kyle Stock, Lance Lambert, and David Ingold, published on, examines the fatal crash data and the correlation of smartphone usage.

What the Research Shows

While the NHTSA crash data only links 1.4% of traffic fatalities directly to smartphone usage, the reality is that the numbers could be much higher. According to a study done by the National Safety Council, almost half of the fatal accidents connected to cell phone usage were not properly recorded in the NHTSA data. Thus, the actual percentage of fatalities caused by smartphone usage are much higher.

Why is there such a discrepancy? Each municipality has its own method of coding and compiling crash metrics, which are then passed on to the state level before being submitted to the NHTSA for final analysis. Thus, the numbers don’t always show a completely accurate result with regards to cell phone usage while driving. Furthermore, it is much harder to tell if a driver was using a phone at the time of the accident. Unlike a breathalyzer test, which can determine if a person is under the influence of alcohol after a crash, there is no test to determine if a person was talking or texting on a cell phone. This makes it difficult to accurately show the relation of fatal crashes to smartphone usage.

However, the collision data still points to cell phone usage as a major factor in fatal traffic accidents. In more than 50% of the fatal crashes in 2015, the driver was traveling straight on the road. There were no extenuating circumstances, no hazardous road or weather conditions, and no blown tires. This points to cell phone usage and distracted driving as a probable cause. Furthermore, drivers seem to be hitting more pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists, who are often on the side of the road. This also points to cell phone usage and distracted driving as a major factor.

The Dangers of Using a Cell Phone While Driving

Smartphones are a leading cause of distracted driving in the United States. Handheld devices are especially dangerous, but even hands-free devices contribute to distracted driving. It is important to stay off your phone entirely, or to pull over and park when sending or receiving a message. This can help keep you and others around you safe from an accident.

Distracted driving involves:

  • Anything that takes your hands off the wheel
  • Anything that takes your eyes off the road
  • Anything that takes your mind off of driving

Using a smartphone does all 3. You will typically hold the phone with 1 hand, glance down at it while you are checking for messages or texting someone, and be more focused on your phone than you are on the road. While Apple has released new technology to automatically put your phone in sleep mode while you are driving, it can be overridden by the person calling, and it must be activated by the owner of the phone.

Hands-free devices are still dangerous. In fact, it is estimated that people using hands-free phones see about 50% less than those who do not use a phone at all, even though their eyes are on the road. Using a phone while driving is like trying to read a book and talk to someone at the same time. Your mind cannot do 2 things at once. This is referred to as cognitive distraction. Thus, even if people try to justify using a phone by saying it’s hands-free, it does not take away from the fact that using a phone at all while driving is contributing to an increasing death toll in the U.S.

Our Norfolk Car Accident Attorneys Represent Clients Who Have Been Injured in Collisions

If you have been injured in a car accident, or your loved one was killed by a negligent or reckless driver, Kalfus & Nachman can help. Our compassionate legal team can discuss your options and build your case. Every step of the way, we will answer your questions and aggressively uphold your right to a financial settlement. Drivers have a responsibility to obey traffic rules and to drive without distractions. This involves not using a smartphone. With the data showing increasing fatalities from cell phone use, it is important to seek representation as soon as possible after an accident to pursue justice from those responsible.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.


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