Last year saw the highest number of car crash fatalities in the United States in 50 years. It’s a sobering statistic released today by the National Safety Council in a new study that shows a surge in traffic related deaths. Overall, estimates reveal that car-related fatalities were up 8% in 2015 over the previous year, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths and 4.4 million serious injuries. Is texting and driving the culprit?
While some attribute the increase to a stronger economy, cheaper gas and more people on the road, at least part — if not most — of the increase can be attributed to texting while driving. “Distracted driving,” the practice of texting, posting and checking in while behind the wheel has, unfortunately, gained serious traction over the past few years.
Experts cite the problem as two-fold: First, many people consider themselves capable of doing two things at once, even though this has been scientifically proven to be impossible. Secondly, many teen drivers who have been informed of the dangers of “texting and driving” unbelievably assume that other tasks, such as taking selfies while on the road, don’t fall under the same “texting” category.
App makers themselves may be specifically contributing to the statistics. Snapchat’s “speed filter” lets drivers register how fast they’re going while taking selfies. (No, we’re not kidding.) The results are far from surprising, leading to deaths as people clock in at over-100mph speeds while taking selfies.
So what’s to be done? There is no shortage of public service announcements and clever campaigns, such as the ad agency that created a fake billboard campaign for a funeral home encouraging people to “text and drive.” Many states have banned texting and driving, and yet look to your left and to your right at a red light, and it seems as if everyone is still tapping away.
What about the Textalyzer? Consider it the social media addict’s equivalent of a Breathalyzer. The device would allow police offers to check phones of drivers involved in car accidents. Recent activity — as well as failure to hand over that device — could lead to a suspended driver’s license.
Here’s to seeing if DUI-like punishments for texting drivers can help lower the new explosion of traffic-related deaths.