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Understanding the Rising Car Accident Risks Caused by New Technology

December 10, 2016

In some important ways, new technology has helped to bring down the rate of deaths caused by auto accidents. Features like automatic braking, reverse-view cameras and blind spot detectors, anti-lock brakes, and advances in airbags have helped to contribute to a decades-long decline in the number of people dying in auto accidents. Unfortunately, though, technology is a mixed blessing. While features like these make people safer, other types of tech like smartphones and in-vehicle entertainment systems have been a major contributing factor to making the roads more dangerous.

According to New York Times, there was a big increase in car accident deaths from 2015 to 2016, after years of steady declines in the number of people killed in car crashes. During the first half of 2016, 17,775 people died in motor vehicle collisions on roads in the United States. This was 10.4 percent more people than had died in car accidents during the first half of 2015. The increase in the death rate was the biggest year-to-year increase in 50 years.

The New York Times attributes this rise to mobile technology, and so do many safety experts. Obviously, cell phones are a big issue, as motorists continue to use their phone in the car despite the known dangers. And as the National Safety Council (NSC) indicates, about 26 percent of all auto accidents now involve someone on their phone. Of course, phones have been around for a long time now, so phones alone cannot explain the big jump in death rates…although PC World does indicate 68 percent of adults now have smartphones, up from 35 percent just four short years ago.

One possible explanation for why death rates are jumping so much is the increased use of infotainment systems. These systems are being installed in more and more new cars as standard features, and they allow motorists to talk to their car, telling it to make phone calls, change the radio station, or enter data into a GPS device to get directions. Because more people are buying cars with infotainment systems, more people are using them-even as they drive. And in spite of warnings to drivers built into some infotainment systems not to use them while driving.

While infotainment systems are marketed as making distracted driving less of a problem, this might not be true. Yes, motorists can just talk without holding or looking at their phone, but they still have to devote brain power to talking to their car, or to a person on the other end of the line.

This means brain power and concentration isn’t focused on driving and motorists can miss important information. The fact the NSC warns us that we miss around 50 percent of what’s going on around you when you’re talking is a big red flag, showing why people using infotainment systems may be contributing to the rising rate of auto accident deaths. If a motorist is distracted, by an infotainment system or otherwise, the motorist must be held accountable for any damages occurring as a result of an accident he caused.