Smartphone Apps Blamed For Largest Spike In U.S. Vehiclular Fatalities In 50 Years

Study after study have shown the dangers of driving while distracted, something that has become a growing problem with the advent of smartphones. However, it used to be that making calls and firing off text messages were the biggest culprits. Not anymore. They're still responsible for distracting drivers, but so are smartphone apps, which led to the biggest increase in traffic related fatalities in 50 years in 2015.

This year isn't looking much better. Just in the first six months of 2016, highway deaths tallied 17,775, a disheartening gain of 10.4 percent compared to the same six-month period a year ago, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). the situation has gotten so bad that the head of the agency, Mark R. Rosekind, called it a "crisis" in an interview with The New York Times, adding that this is something that "needs to be addressed now."

Smartphone Car

The rise in highway fatalities follows fairly consistent declines over the last four decades. When Pokemon Go first came out and took the mobile world by storm, it was commonplace to see pedestrians blindly crossing roads while drivers on the hunt for rare characters looked down at their phones instead of roadways ahead of them.

It's not just Pokemon Go. Snapchat let users send photos and videos with the speed of travel attached. There's a lawsuit in Georgia filed against a teenage driver for allegedly using Snapchat while driving in excess of 100 miles per hour. The car ended up smashing into that of an Uber driver causing serious bodily injury.

We don't mean to be the harbingers of doom, but if left unaddressed, the problem will only get worse. In lieu of putting smartphones away while in a vehicle, hands-free technologies have emerged, but they may not be the answer. Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that motorists can remain distracted for nearly half a minute after using voice commands.

"The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers," said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving."

Stay safe out there, folks.