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Phone distraction underreported as cause of traffic fatalities


Phone distraction underreported as cause of traffic fatalities

Many South Carolina motorists have either used a smartphone while driving or seen others do it. Safety advocates are increasingly blaming smartphone distractions for the rise in traffic fatalities, especially the sharp jumps in deaths of pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists. Putting precise figures on the number of crashes caused by distracted drivers, however, remains impossible. Safety advocates believe that inconsistent reporting from the states has undermined the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s ability to accurately calculate how many people died because of smartphone distractions.

Across the country, fatalities rose by 14.4 percent between 2014 and 2016. Modest increases in miles driven, drinking and speeding cannot account for the spike in deaths. Law enforcement overwhelmingly focuses on alcohol and drug use when investigating accidents. The reporting forms for some states do not even include a checkbox to indicate smartphone involvement. These factors produce incomplete data about the true causes of wrecks.

Other figures point toward smartphones as the source of deadly distractions. As of 2016, 81 percent of people owned a smartphone. Behavior has shifted from making calls to texting or using social media, which require people to take their eyes off of the road. The increase in vehicles striking pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists also suggests that people are not monitoring the road for smaller objects. Over half of accidents recorded in 2015 occurred while people drove down straight roads without any bad weather or cross traffic.

Distracted drivers could be legally responsible for the damages incurred by car accident victims. People who have been injured in a crash caused by a driver who was accessing social media or texting might want to discuss their case with an attorney who has experience with these types of matters.