The ubiquity of technology in 2016 benefits our society in many ways. People have more access to information (like this webpage), they can communicate with friends, family or work associates from the other side of the world, and they can even keep tabs on their favorite celebrities. Still, the prevalence of technology isn’t all roses.
Distraction behind the wheel has grown to a problem of epidemic proportions in the United States, and with new and innovative technology coming out every month, remedying this epidemic may not be an easy task. Using cell phones, navigation systems, and Mp3 players behind the wheel increases your chances of being involved in a crash exponentially, and it is against the law in most of the fifty states. However, safety agencies and researchers are now finding that we may only be at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to distracted driving injuries and fatalities, because thousands of these accidents aren’t being reported properly.
In a study financed in part by the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, researchers reviewed approximately 180 fatal car accidents in which there was strong evidence of cellphone usage by the driver. The results: only 8% of the crashes were properly coded as involving cell phones or hand-held technology. Even in cases where drivers openly admitted to using a phone during an accident in which someone was killed or seriously injured, roughly half of the cases cited other causes and factors, masking the true impetus for the crash.
This sort of statistical underreporting creates a false sense of security for drivers all across America, especially younger drivers, and may lead them to believe that distracted driving isn’t as dangerous as they’ve been told. Officials are now certain that the number of crashes caused by cellphone use is much greater than what is being reported, but it may not be possible to ever get complete reporting of cellphone involvement as long as reliance on admission is a necessity. (USA Today)
AAA officials have been studying and briefing automakers on the issue for several years now, and safety agencies have been vocal about their desire to limit the number of future vehicles with voice-driven technologies, large infotainment systems (those that take your eyes away from the road), and other potentially distracting in-car accessories. Even so, some industry officials believe that the number of cars with highly distracting in-car accessories (infotainment, voice command, etc.) could climb as high as 60 million by 2018. (The Associated Press)
The fact that distracted driving accidents are underreported means that, contrary to prior conceptions, distraction behind the wheel is not only extremely dangerous, it is a hazard that we do not yet fully understand. Now is the time to sit down and have a discussion with your loved ones about driving distraction-free – it might save their lives, or spare them a traumatic injury.