Are Apps Creating a National Auto Accident Epidemic?

Distracted driving and apps are behind a recent increase in car accidentsStatistics gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show an alarming increase in fatal auto accidents. According to NHTSA, there were 17,775 fatal crashes in the first six months of 2016. There were 10.4 percent fewer accidents during the same period in 2015. NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind has placed some of the blame on apps and distracted driving.

Mr. Rosekind’s worries over apps and driving have materialized in the last several months. Apps like Pokémon Go, Facebook Live and Snapchat have taken the blame for several recent car accidents.

In one case, a driver using Snapchat’s speed filter slammed into an Uber driver at more than 100 miles per hour. Snapchat’s speed filter allows users to record and share with friends how fast they are going while taking selfies. Of course, many have argued this is a reckless app feature, as it appears to encourage drivers to take high-speed photos of themselves.

Another tragic accident happened three weeks ago, when two teenagers were killed in a collision with a semi-truck. The driver of the passenger vehicle had turned on Facebook Live to record herself. Footage of the accident was recorded and posted to the teenager’s account.

Can App Data Be Used to Prove Fault in an Auto Accident?

Apps have changed transportation safety, but also personal injury law. App data, especially social media posts, can be uncovered during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances, this data can be used to prove fault in a car accident.

Social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are timestamped, and they might be used in conjunction with additional evidence. For example, someone posting public Instagram photos of themselves drinking heavily with friends at a bar. If this person leaves the bar and crashes into another vehicle, it might become evidence.

We have an obligation to others when we get behind the wheel of machines weighing hundreds of pounds. Multiple studies and statistics gathered by transportation safety agencies have shown that mobile phone use and driving do not mix. People who cause collisions while using apps may be held liable for their actions.