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The way drivers use their smartphones is driving up crashes

After a long period during which the number of highway deaths declined, a recent surge in roadway fatalities baffled regulators.

Neither the increase in speeding nor drunk driving was significant enough to have caused this uptick. More significant was the increase in smartphone ownership and how motorists use these devices.

Using cellphones for more than calls

You may think that drivers use their smartphones mostly for making and receiving calls, but talking almost seems an old-fashioned way of communicating these days. Now everybody uses texting, Twitter and Facebook to say their piece and contact others, and unfortunately, many people do this while they are behind the wheel. The main issue is that these activities require considerably more concentration than holding a phone to your ear or carrying on a conversation through a hands-free device. By 2017, almost 80 percent of all Americans were using their smartphones to share information and photos and to keep up with friends and the current news on social media sites.

Identifying fatalities

The groups most represented by the increase in roadway fatalities are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Why? Drivers distracted by smartphone use simply do not see them until it is too late. The fatalities among these groups increased sharply in 2016, and the experts who study such crashes believe that the statistics may be much higher than reported; that is, texting or other forms of smartphone use may be responsible for more of these accidents than we know. For example, data about the use of hands-free technology related to a crash has not been captured accurately.

Finding evidence

The state of Michigan still permits cellphone use by motorists, but texting is illegal. Cellphone records can provide evidence in a vehicle crash that a distracted driver may have caused. These days, many motorists feel that they can drive, text or tweet at the same time, and It is a safe bet that someone who is sharing the road with you is doing just that.

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