In 2015, The National Safety Council (NSC) estimated that 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads—the largest one-year percentage increase in half a century.
The number of deaths rose 8 percent over what they were in 2014, compared with a less than 0.5 percent increase between 2013 and 2014.
Why are so many more people dying on roadways? The NSC cited factors like lower unemployment and cheaper gas, which puts more drivers on the road. In addition, however, we can’t ignore the rising problem of distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that in 2014, a total of 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
In 2013, a distracted driving crash killed a driver and left a child paralyzed. The families of the victims are asking a question that has been on many victims’ minds: If technology companies like Apple have the ability to prevent texting while driving, why haven’t they?
Tech Companies Refuse to Use Text-Blocking Technology
Apple already has a patent on technology that’s designed to prevent users from texting while driving, but they haven’t deployed it, according to a recent article in the New York Times
This isn’t a new issue. In 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board sent a letter to the wireless industry association urging tech companies to use their technology to take the option of texting while driving out of users’ hands. So far, the companies haven’t taken any steps toward that goal, sticking to public warnings instead.
Victims argue that cell phones have an addictive quality to them, and that many drivers have a hard time avoiding picking up their phones while behind the wheel. An app that blocked that function could take the question off the table.
Which Company Will Go First?
One of the issues may be that no cell phone manufacturer wants to go first. If Apple employed technology that stopped texting while driving, wouldn’t users default to other cell phone companies instead, to retain their ability to communicate while on the go?
Some victims feel that’s just an excuse, and such technology is necessary. The technology that Apple already has senses when a phone is moving (such as in a car), and implements a program that blocks certain functions, like texting.
In their patent for the technology, Apple says that programs like this have become necessary because it is “doubtful that law enforcement will have any significant effect on stopping the practice,” of texting while driving.
There are other things that users can currently do. Drivers can use voice commands in some cars to avoid actually picking up the phone and punching buttons. Recent studies have questioned just how “safe” voice commands are, however, with results showing that using them still creates distraction and reduces driver attention on the road.
There are also “do-not-disturb” and “silent mode” features, but all of these require the driver to take action each time they get into a vehicle. Consumers can buy a separate device, like one sold by “Cellcontrol,” that lock out certain functions when the driver is in the driver’s seat.
There are also other free apps and services that can send an automatic text reply like “I’m driving” when the phone is in a moving vehicle. Many of these, however, still show when a text has arrived, and drivers may be tempted to respond.
Yet, some victims maintain that the only real solution is for tech giants like Apple to deploy technology that takes the decision out of human hands.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.