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Distracted Drivers Help to Explain the Rise in Car Accident Fatalities

There has been a 10.4 percent rise in fatalities in auto accidents in the first half of 2016 compared with the first half of 2015. Wall Street Journal reported on this troubling increase in the number of accident deaths happening on roads throughout the United States. The data is based on preliminary numbers. However, if trends hold, experts expect there will actually be more accidents tallied in the second half of 2016 than in the first. The total number of fatalities is potentially expected to exceed a record-setting 40,000 deaths. This is very bad news after decades of declining car accident death rates. The rise in fatalities began in the 2014 to 2015 year, but is continuing and is worse from 2015 to 2016.

Motorists need to know why there are so many car accident deaths happening, even as safety technologies are improving. Technologies like brake assist that brakes for you if you don't brake and blind spot detectors that alert you if there are vehicles beside you should be bringing accident rates down.

Unfortunately, one big reason for the rising death rate is because other kinds of technologies besides safety tech have also advanced... and these technologies are taking the focus of motorists away from the road.

Today many cars are equipped with infotainment systems or with in-vehicle electronic devices. Technologies can range from movie screens to satellite radio systems to built in GPS devices. Many of these systems are controlled by voice, so motorists often think they are safe and easy to use.  Many motorists also have smart phones, some with personal assistants that are also controlled by voice.

Motorists tend to spend a lot of time manipulating these electronics while in their car. Drivers may do things like talk to their GPS to try to enter an address, talk on the phone, ask the phone to dial numbers, or even ask the phone to send an email or a tweet.

While far too many people think it is safe to use these in-vehicle infotainment and entertainment systems as long as they are hands-free, research says otherwise. National Safety Council makes very clear that hands-free is not risk free. Even listening to a phone call can result in activity in the part of the brain that processes images becoming 1/3 less functional. This helps to explain why a person talking on the phone has been found to miss at least 50 percent of what is going on in the windshield in front of him.

Drivers should not let the technology inside of their cars hurt them. If you are driving, you need to be focused on just one thing: the road in front of you. If you fail to focus on this and pay attention to your infotainment system instead, you are going to contribute to the rising car accident death rate which has occurred in recent years.

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