Do Smartphones Cause Pedestrian Accidents?

March 7, 2016

Last year, the U.S. witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of pedestrian accidents. This significant uptick in accidents and related deaths had many officials debating what may be at fault, but very few actually seem to understand that these “distracted walking” accidents are as much to blame as they may think.

Too many people are quick to blame smartphones and other electronic devices for the record number of fatal pedestrian accidents in 2015. This kind of victim blaming only furthers a misinformed logic that tells us that people on their phones are to blame for the accidents, as opposed to the people driving the cars that hits them.

Why Was There Such a Big Increase in Car Accident Deaths?

The real reason more people were killed last year is not because there were more people distracted by their phones. Many officials and citizens are calling for smartphone manufacturers to be held responsible for the deaths of so many pedestrians. However, unlike distracted driving, “distracted walking” is not at all illegal.

Distracted walking does not put other people in danger and is therefore not against any law. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a total of six people were killed in the U.S. in 2015 due to distracted walking compared to approximately 4,800 people killed by cars each year.

The real reason for so many car accidents and pedestrians being hit is pretty obvious though, after NHTSA released some enlightening information. 2015 reached a record high for most miles driven across the U.S. in a year. That simply means that there were more cars on the road for longer periods of time. It’s a numbers game.

A NHTSA study shows that the percentage of pedestrian accidents is directly correlated to the amount of miles driven by citizens each year. For example, in 2009 there was a similar spike in driving miles coupled with a rise in the number of pedestrian accidents.

After closer inspection, it’s quite easy to find the common link between 2009 and 2015’s increases in driving miles. Gas prices were extremely low. Low gas prices mean more drivers, which means more fatal accidents.

So officials need to stop blaming pedestrians for using their phones and do what they can to make the roads safer for everyone. So long as the gas prices stay low, encouraging more drivers to get out, we are likely to see more pedestrian accidents.

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