Distracted Driving on the Rise

distracted-drivingThe number of car accidents in America has steadily increased since 2014, reversing a previous downward trend on America’s roadways. Experts believe that an increase in distracted driving is largely to blame for the increase in car accidents – pointing to the rise of cell phones, in particular.

Distracted driving is a catch-all term for whenever a driver is not focused on the roadways. While this obviously includes activities such as texting and driving or putting on makeup while commuting to work, distracted driving encompasses many more activities. A driver may be distracted if they are changing the radio station, inputting an address into their navigation system, or having an emotional conversation that distracts the driver from concentrating on the road. Experts believe that, since there is no test to measure what a driver was concentrating on at the time of an accident, the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers is woefully under reported.  

Even the statistics that are reported, however, point towards a problem that is only getting worse in America. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported an almost 9 percent increase in traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving between 2014 and 2015. This means that accidents caused by distracted driving are growing almost three times as fast as accidents caused by alcohol (3.2 percent) and speeding (3.0 percent).

The problem with distracted driving, compared to drunk driving, is that most drivers are guilty and most drivers get away with it, according to HuffPost. In an opinion-editorial written by Joel Feldman, Founder of EndDD.org, he outlines several tactics that can help reduce distracted driving across the country:

  • Ask your family or friends to drive without distractions. According to an AT&T study, if one of the five people that a driver speaks with each day asked them to not drive while focused on something else, like their cell phone, a full 85 percent said they would comply with the request.
  • Involve businesses. Some businesses now are giving presentations on distracted driving, as well as utilizing EndDD.org information and quizzes to help keep their employees safe.
  • Increase in public service announcements. Because most drivers are guilty of distracted driving, many do not understand or know about its harmful (and very real) consequences. A public service campaign, similar to the constant drunk driving advertisements, could successfully educate Americans about the risk they are taking with not just their lives, but the lives of their passengers and fellow travelers on the road.

In New York, Governor Cuomo has announced a study on the “textalyzer” – a tongue-in-cheek term for an electronic device capable of deciphering whether an iPhone or Android smartphone was being used at the time of a car accident. While privacy and civil rights advocates have decried the potential privacy implications, the Governor says that something must be done about the rise of car accidents attributed to preoccupied New Yorkers on the road.

This is part of a broader push to reduce distracted driving in the Empire State – where there has been a 918 percent increase in tickets for texting and driving in the five-year period between 2011 and 2016. Since he announced that the state would be studying the textalyzer, Chicago, New Jersey, and Tennessee have announced plans to also study the device’s effectiveness and privacy implications.



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