Biggest Spike in Traffic Deaths in 50 Years? Blame Apps.

I came across a New York Times article the other day with the above title.  I didn’t have to read the article to know it was true; having worked as a New York car accident lawyer for more that two decades, I have personally witnessed the effects of smartphones on driving accidents.

Some of the apps for smart phones out there seem almost designed to kill drivers (and those they collide with). Take for instance the “snapchat” app’s speed filter.   Want to impress your friends as you are driving along the highway?  Ratchet your speed up to 120 miles per hour and then snap a video of your view from the car. Now you can post the video on snapchat instantly.  Your friends will see the video with your speed — “120 mph” — superimposed on it.  They will think you are so cool!

Another dangerous app is Waze.  Full disclosure:  I love Waze. I use it every time I am driving in big urban areas like New York City or Philadelphia.  It works just like any other navigator but it actually finds you the quickest route to get where you are going based on the current traffic conditions, including construction slow-downs, roadway accidents blocking traffic, traffic jams, and even objects in the road blocking a lane of travel.  But how does Waze know about all these conditions?  Other Waze users observe these conditions as they drive by and then hit buttons on Waze’ app screen to notify Waze about them.  Those drivers might feel like good Samaritans by helping other Waze users steer clear of traffic obstructions, but they are risking their own and other lives by paying attention to their phone screen instead of the road.

And of course there is the now infamous Pokemon Go app, which I blogged about here.  With Pokemon, you can drive around capturing “monsters”  with your phone.  Problem:  You might also “capture” a pedestrian with the hood of your car!

So the problem is no longer just “texting” while driving.  It’s texting, it’s apps, it’s talking,  it’s navigating – there are just so many ways to be distracted by our phones these days.

How bad is the problem?  That New York Times article I was talking about points out that highway fatalities last year recorded the largest jump up in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse. In the first six months of 2016, highway deaths climbed by 10.4 percent compared to the prior year.

The only bright light on the horizon is the advent of self-driving vehicles.  Soon we won’t be driving anymore and will be able to do any damn thing we want on our smartphones.  This takes distracted driving out of the equation.  But self-driving vehicles may turn out to be unsafe as well, for other reasons.

Oh well.  Unsafe drivers and unsafe machines keep me in business.  Guess I won’t be switching over to real estate law anytime soon . . . .

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

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Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
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