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Smartphone use may be behind rise of fatal car accidents

Some car accidents in Pennsylvania that have injured or killed people may have been caused by a driver distracted by a smartphone, but these accidents may not always be reported as such. Fatal motor vehicle accidents are on the rise after decreasing for years, and experts say the increase cannot be fully attributed to a slight rise in vehicle miles traveled or drunk driving. Some believe it is because of an increased use of smartphones behind the wheel.

Drivers may be distracted when using their phones for talking or texting as well as with apps like Instagram and Facebook. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must rely on data from states to assess the causes of accidents. Some states do not even have a reporting system in place for accidents caused by cell phone use; in other states, it is simply underreported. A nonprofit known as the National Safety Council examined how deadly motor vehicle accidents were coded in NHTSA databases. It found that half of the accidents in which cell phones were a known factor were not coded in that way.

Another issue that causes experts to believe cell phones may be to blame is the types of fatalities that occur. Deaths are up among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, and these are all easy to miss when using a cell phone.

People on foot, on bicycles or on motorcycles may be particularly vulnerable to catastrophic injuries because they do not have the protection of a vehicle. Whether a person is a pedestrian or someone using some other type of vehicle at the time of an accident caused by a distracted driver, the driver may be responsible for the person's medical costs and other expenses, such as vehicle repair. An injured person may want to consult an attorney who may be able to negotiate with the driver's insurance company.

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