In 2016, 3,450 people were killed because of distracted driving, a 2.2 percent decline from 2015. Still, the number of distraction-related fatalities reported in 2016 was higher than in 2011. According to NHTSA, fatal distracted-driving crashes specifically involving cell-phone use increased to 14 percent (442) in 2015 from 12 percent (354) in 2011. And the percentage of distracted-driving-related crashes resulting in injuries that were linked to cell phones increased to 8 percent (21,000) in 2015 from 6 percent (15,000) in 2011. (A breakdown from NHTSA for 2016 isn’t available yet.) Even these numbers don’t fully reflect the potential scope of danger, safety advocates and the police say, because of the limits of law enforcement and the lack of adequate evidence proving that smartphone use or other distractions were the root cause of some crashes.
Distracted driving has also involved in-car infotainment systems and lower-tech driver activity, such as adjusting a radio or temperature control, talking to a passenger, or taking eyes off the road for any reason.
The automotive and tech industries are using technology designed to mitigate distracted-driving dangers. Many new vehicles have advanced safety features (often optional) such as automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, which are recognized for their potential to help protect drivers and passengers.
Major smartphone manufacturers, wireless providers, and smaller tech companies have created various apps and services to prevent teens and adults from using smartphones while driving. But at the moment, the adoption and use of them rely largely on users choosing to opt in.
And until cars become fully autonomous, dangers will persist from those who choose to use smartphones while driving or become distracted by onboard infotainment systems.
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