Study shows dramatic increase in highway fatalities, distracted driving

Published: Nov. 17, 2016 at 6:30 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2016 at 9:46 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - New data show there's been a dramatic increase in traffic deaths last year. Now some are pointing to more and more drivers using apps while behind the wheel as the cause.

Driving down Midlothian Turnpike, Marissa Doca says she constantly notices drivers with their eyes and hands, on their smart phones. Doca says those other driver aren't just texting, but using apps like Waze, Snapchat, even Pokemon Go.

"I see it all the time, people sitting at red light—not even red lights—just using their video on their phone. I always see people using Snapchat and videotaping," said Doca.

Over the last four decades, traffic deaths declined across the U.S. - until last year. According to a data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of highway fatalities in 2015 was up 7.5 percent from 2014; the sharpest spike in 50 years.

That same data also says the number of crashes due to distracted driving went up by 8.8 percent.

"We've seen a lot more crashes with distracted driving," said Sgt. Stephan Vick with State Police.

Texting and driving is illegal in Virginia, but there are no laws specifically banning using apps behind the wheel.

Sgt. Vick says even taking your eyes off the road for a few seconds can have drastic consequences.

"You diverting your attention from the roadway, from your driving, for a short period of time can result in a crash or even more serious conditions," he said.

Vick says his message to drivers is simple.

"Put the phone down, and concentrate on driving," said Vick.

Doca says she's taken that message to heart, especially when her daughter is in the back seat.

"I don't know why you would want to risk your life, or anybody else's life for that matter," she said.

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