Despite Safer Technologies, Highway Fatalities Rise and Our Phones are to Blame

Numbers released last week revealed that highway fatalities are steeply on the rise, with 46,000 in 2022 alone. That’s a 22% increase.

And distracted driving is the major driver for the rise in highway deaths.

Bruce Landsberg, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said that reliable estimates of just how responsible distracted driving is are hard to come by, adding, “It’s much bigger than the data show.” He fears the trend will continue to worsen without more effective ways to measure the impact of distracted driving.

Landsberg explained, “this is an epidemic. Everybody talks about fatalities, but there are hundreds of thousands or more life-altering injuries – broken limbs, brain injuries, horrible burns. This doesn’t have to happen. These crashes are not accidents. They are completely preventable.”

Recent data shows that of 38,824 highway deaths in 2020, 3,124 were from distracted driving, which is less than 10%. They documented 324,652 distracted driving injuries during the same time period. Experts believe that the numbers are serious underestimates, believing that 25% to 30% is closer to reality.

The way we measure the cause of an accident has failed to keep up with technology, and drivers are hesitant to self-report that they were using a cell phone before a crash, so it’s unclear exactly how prevalent the problem is – but we can be sure it’s worse than the numbers suggest, by a lot.