Several tragic accidents recently have been attributed to the use of SnapChat, a popular app that makes it possible for someone to post photos of their speed limit while driving. One accident involved a teen driver who recorded a SnapChat video of her driving 115 miles per hour. Shortly after she took the video, she crashed her car in a collision that resulted in five fatalities. In another incident, a different teen driver recorded his 100 MPH speed on SnapChat before he caused a collision.
These accidents, reported on by New York Times, are just two of many incidents contributing to a troubling rise in the total number of auto accidents. Mobile technology, including new apps for the phone and new vehicle infotainment systems, is making the roads much more dangerous.
How Technology is Increasing Accident Risks
According to National Safety Council, approximately nine percent of drivers on U.S. roads at any given time are using a cellular phone. To try to combat this, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has actually been working on guidelines addressing infotainment systems in cars and addressing aftermarket mobile technologies to communicate with those infotainment systems. The idea is that if drivers can talk to their cars and talk to their phones without holding or looking down at the screen, the roads will at least be a little bit safer.
Unfortunately, the problem with these in-vehicle infotainment systems is that they may actually be making things worse, even as they try to improve distracted driving risks by incorporating more safety features and facilitating voice control. Motorists likely think they are being smart and safe by using these technologies since they don't have to take their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road to talk to their cars. However, National Safety Council says this is not really safer and some think it may actually be more dangerous to use voice-controlled systems because it takes longer to accomplish whatever task you are trying to do.
When you use these infotainment systems, your hands may be on the wheel and your eyes may be on the road but your brain is focused on activities other than driving. NSC warns you may miss as much as 50 percent of what is in front of you on the road due to inattention blindness when you are focusing on talking to your infotainment system or trying to accomplish other tasks while behind the wheel.
The consequences of driver distraction can be dire. During the first half of 2016, there was a 10.4 percent rise in fatal car accidents compared with same time period in 2015. This was the biggest year-to-year jump in death rates over the last 50 years. Motorists need to be aware of how dangerous it is to drive while distracted, even when using hands-free infotainment systems.