In a reversal of a 40-year downward trend, the number of fatal auto accidents is now increasing.
Let American Know reports that in 2015, there was a 7.2 percent increase in fatal auto accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) projects that 2016 will be even worse, with an 8 percent increase in fatal auto accidents. Even people who are not in vehicles are at a higher risk. Car-pedestrian and car-bike fatalities are also on the rise.
Smartphones are often blamed for the spike in traffic fatalities and accidents. According to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, almost 80 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones. At any given time, more than 600,000 of them are operating a smartphone while driving.
Texting and driving have proven to be a dangerous combination, with 78 percent of distracted driving-related crashes attributed to texting drivers.
However, non-texting apps have also resulted in fatal accidents.
The messaging app Snapchat features a speed filter that tells users how fast they are traveling, which has encouraged some drivers to drive at unsafe speeds. A man who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a collision is suing both the other driver for her recklessness and Snapchat for encouraging the teen to drive at unsafe speeds.
Playing Pokémon Go has distracted drivers and resulted in accidents.
Waze, a navigation app, has caused distracted driving by offering rewards to drivers for reporting traffic jams and roadside obstructions.
Experts believe that in addition to distracted driving there are other causes of the spike in fatal auto accidents. Longer commutes, cheaper gas, and lower unemployment mean that there are more drivers on the road at any one time, which increases the likelihood of a collision.
Follow these tips to prevent traffic accidents and protect yourself and others:
- Silence and put away all phones for the duration of your drive.
- Keep your eyes on the road and leave the distractions at home.
- When buying a new or used car, prioritize safety ratings and purchase cars with safety features. Also before you buy, sure to run a recall check on your car at SaferCar.gov.
- If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist, pay attention to vehicle traffic even if you have the right of way.
- Follow all posted speed limits and wear your seat belt.
- Always drive alert, awake and sober.