Driver distraction may be behind national rise in deadly car accidents

Car accidents increased significantly during the first half of 2015, and officials have identified distracted driving as one potential underlying factor.

Inattentive drivers cause thousands of accidents each year in New York City and other parts of New York. In 2014 alone, cell phone use and other forms of distracted driving were cited as factors in over 49,000 accidents statewide, according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Unfortunately, recent data suggests that the growing problem of distracted driving may be contributing to an ongoing increase in serious accidents across the country.

Deadly and injurious accidents rising

According to Newsweek, the first half of 2015 marked the first time in several years that traffic fatalities increased in the U.S. The 16,000 deaths recorded between January and June 2015 represented a 14 percent increase over the number that occurred during the same period in 2014. Over the same intervals, the number of serious personal injuries that required hospitalization increased 30 percent. Altogether, 2.3 million of these injuries occurred in the first six months of 2015.

Officials believe that these statistics point to a persistent pattern rather than a temporary aberration. Factors such as falling gas prices and increases in miles driven per person may help explain the rise in serious accidents. However, some experts contend that other factors, such as distracted driving, are also responsible for this dangerous trend.

High rates of inattention-related accidents

According to The Oregonian, in 2014, distracted driving was a factor in about 10 percent of all recorded traffic fatalities. However, the overall impact of inattentive driving may have been much greater. Driver distraction is notoriously difficult to identify in accidents, especially when witnesses are lacking or the at-fault driver denies wrongdoing.

The National Safety Council has estimated that cell phone use alone causes a much greater number of accidents than the above statistics suggest. According to Business Insider, in 2013, drivers involved in an estimated 21 percent of car accidents were using handheld or hands-free cell phones at the time. The same year, an estimated 6 percent of accidents involved drivers who were texting. Overall, more than one-quarter of all accidents involved some form of cell phone use.

Holding reckless drivers accountable

Sadly, research suggests that people who appreciate the risks of distracted driving often still engage in this behavior anyway. When these careless drivers cause severe or deadly accidents, legal remedies may be available to victims. People who can prove that their injuries occurred due to another person's negligence may be entitled to various forms of compensation. In New York, these include damages for medical costs, lost wages, disfigurement, disablement and pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, establishing that a driver was distracted and that this caused an accident can be challenging. For assistance navigating this process, injury victims may want to consider consulting with an auto accident attorney.