Increasingly within the past decade, smartphones have become a major part of our everyday lives. For some, this may mean cell phone use while driving. Insurance companies are convinced that the sudden rise in traffic fatalities is due to the use of cell phone apps. Companies have identified this issue as the “new normal” and are now tasked with finding an adequate solution.
In 2015, the number of roadway fatalities was at its highest rate in over 50 years. In 2016, the number of fatalities have only continued to rise with a 10.4 percent increase since the calculation of the 2015 statistics.
Some recent cases involving the Snapchat app, have brought the issue to the public’s attention. A newly added feature on Snapchat allows individuals to see the speed they are traveling. In October 2016 a driver recorded a video on snapchat of her car traveling at 115 mph. She recorded this video minutes before colliding with another car and killing 5 people.
To address the issue of app use while driving, car manufacturers have created software that allows voice recognition to control texts, calls, and apps including Pandora and Spotify. Two major programs, Ford’s Sync and Apple’s CarPlay, allow a simplified phone menu to be displayed on the car’s dash in hopes of reducing driver distractions. However, the president of the National Safety Council, Deborah Hersman, has stated that it remains unclear whether these programs have reduced the level of distractions. Instead, Hersman believes that programs such as Sync and CarPlay, may actually be enabling phone use by creating easier ways to access your phone while driving.
The increasing rate of highway fatalities, is a major public safety concern that needs to be addressed. The Department of Transportation has allocated resources to develop a “Road to Zero” strategy of eliminating roadway fatalities within the next 30 years. However, the amount of attention this issue receives in the future is largely based upon the newly appointed administration under President Elect Donald Trump.
Neal E. Boudette, Biggest Spike in Traffic Deaths in 50 Years? Blame Apps, T?? N?? Y??? T???? (Nov. 15, 2016), http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/business/tech-distractions-blamed-for-rise-in-traffic-fatalities.html.