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Smartphones may be causing more fatal accidents

West Virginia drivers may be at greater risk of being involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident than in previous years. The past two years have shown a sharp increase in traffic fatalities after years of decline, and some experts believe that the increasing use of smartphones could be responsible.

One reason is that there has only been a small increase in the number of miles driven and in people who are speeding or drinking and driving. The highest percentage increase in fatalities has been among pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. These are all more likely to be missed by someone using a smartphone than a larger vehicle. Furthermore, in more than half of the deadly accidents in 2015, drivers were on straight roads with no obstacles or issues such as blowouts, inclement weather or crossing traffic.

A San Francisco startup did a study that found drivers used smartphones in almost 90 percent of trips, and this did not include the use of hands-free phones. According to the National Safety Council, in the databases of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, only about half of the fatal accidents in which cellphones are a known factor are coded that way. The NHTSA may also be receiving incomplete data from states, many of which do not even have a way to indicate the role of a cellphone in an accident.

If a person is injured in a car crash that is caused by a driver who is distracted by a cellphone, that driver is supposed to be responsible for the injured person's expenses. While the driver's insurance company should pay these expenses, in some cases, drivers may be underinsured. In other cases, the insurance company may dispute the cause of the accident. People injured in car accidents may want have an attorney's help when dealing with these issues.

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Stephen P. New, Attorney at Law
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