Fatal auto accidents nationwide increased by the largest percentage in half a century, according to official statistics for the first half of 2016. And officials recently blamed various cellphone apps for the recent rise in deadly car accidents nationwide.
"This is a crisis that needs to be addressed now," Mark. R. Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said in a recent interview with The New York Times.
Rosekind was referring to increased usage of messaging apps such as Snapchat and Waze, which officials claim have the potential to distract drivers by asking them to post photos of their speed while driving or notify other drivers about car accidents and traffic jobs.
During the first six months of this year, there were 17,775 traffic fatalities nationwide, according to statistics compiled by the NHTSA. In contrast, there were 10.4 percent fewer traffic fatalities during the same six-month period in 2015.
Specific traffic fatality statistics for the first six months of this year were not available for Ohio. However, Ohio traffic fatalities reached a three-year high in 2015 (1,110 fatalities), according to NHTSA statistics. And when it comes to fatal wrong-way car crashes, there has been a significant increase in Ohio this year, according to the Dayton Daily News.
By the Numbers: Fatal Auto Accidents Nationwide, Ohio
- 17,775 – Number of fatal car accidents, January – June 2016
- 4 percent – Increase in fatal car accidents compared to January – June 2015
- 1,110 – Car accident fatalities in 2015
- 1,006 – Car accident fatalities in 2014
Why have there been so many fatal car accidents in 2016?
According to traffic safety officials, distracted driving caused by cellphones has become an increasingly common cause of fatal car accidents nationwide. And it’s not just because drivers are texting or using their hands to make phone calls.
Numerous studies have shown that even using a cellphone in hands-free mode can be distracting to drivers. That’s because drivers’ minds are focused on the tasks they’re performing with their phones rather than driving.
"It’s the cognitive workload on your brain that’s the problem," said Deborah Hersman, president of the nonprofit National Safety Council and a former chairwoman of the federal National Transportation Safety Board, in an interview with The New York Times.
What can be done to decrease traffic fatalities nationwide?
Some auto manufacturers have created vehicles designed to reduce accidents through increased safety features. In particular, some vehicles now come equipped with technology designed to reduce driver distractions.
Such improvements include heads-up display features, which show drivers essential information (vehicle speed, speed limit, navigational information) on the windshield as well as alerting them if they have drifted out of their lane.
But many officials agree that the key to eliminating fatal car accidents involves educating the public about the danger of using electronic devices while driving. Doing so will not be easy, though, since so many people use phones and other electronic devices on the road.
"This is a serious public safety concern for the nation," Robert Gordon, a senior vice president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said at a recent conference in Washington held by the National Transportation Safety Board. "We are all trying to figure out to what extent this is the new normal."