At Pocketnow, we encourage responsible driving habits despite our overwhelming passion for mobile technology. Indeed, Motorola has found ways to help out those who are at the wheel stay connected and on the right path. But other owners of phones without even a “Car Mode” or those who just don’t bother, they do put themselves at risk with their eyes on their palms and not on the road.
But can we really pinpoint a recent spike in traffic-related deaths in the United States to smartphones? The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration thinks so, despite not having firm numbers.
The increase in smartphones in our hands is so significant, there’s no question that has to play some role. But we don’t have enough information yet to determine how big a role.
— Mark Rosekind, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
With the busy Thanksgiving travel week halfway over, NHTSA reported 16,225 people died in the first six months of this year. Compared to the same period last year, the 8.1-percent rate of increase in deaths was double the rate of increase in driving nationwide.
The numbers are subject to revision and the whole-year numbers may end up telling a different story for 2015. Last year marked the lowest amount of passenger vehicle deaths recorded since 1975, when record-keeping began.
Rosekind said that cheap gasoline, a better economy, lack of effective state safe-driving laws and poor driving behavior from the likes of teenagers are very likely among the causes for the uptick NHTSA is examining.
If smartphones are determined to be a ranking factor in traffic deaths come next report, we’ll probably have to look at how drivers’ devices are being used — be it in car mode or not, for navigation, communication, or even entertainment purposes — while vehicles are on the move.
It’s also likely that we’ll have to deal with wearable technology before government officials even recognize them as factors in accidents.