For all the time and technology we've had to tackle the issue of fatal crashes in Alabama, we have yet to get a firm grip on the problem.
Our Birmingham injury lawyers know that between 2007 and 2011, there were nearly 600 people killed in some 530 crashes just in Jefferson and Shelby Counties. There were also more than 27,000 non-fatal crashes in those counties just in 2011, according to a report by the University of Alabama.
Speed is often cited as a factor. So is the increase and traffic levels. But also, we have the issue of those who drive distracted. The number of fatal crashes between 2009 and 2011 spiked by approximately 22 percent.
We believe we have a good idea why: The rise in smartphones, one of the ultimate distractions behind the wheel.
A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that nearly 60 percent of American adults now have smarphones. That's up from 35 percent just two years ago.
This dramatic increase has no doubt had an impact on the number of crashes.
Consider also that 90 percent of all Americans have a cell phone of some kind. That's an increase of eight percent in just two years.
The biggest group of individuals without cell phones were those who said they were content with their landlines, and believed cell phones too expensive. Mostly, these individuals were 65 years of age and older.
A survey of 18-and-over adults found unsurprisingly that the possession and use of smartphones is especially high among those in their 20s and 30s, though those in their mid-40s and 50s have been increasingly jumping aboard the trend.
Alabama enacted a texting-while-driving ban last year, becoming the 38th state to do so. The ban encompasses the use of Internet or e-mail surfing, but not dialing or merely talking on the phone.
This loophole could be problematic, considering a recently-released study conducted by data analysts at the University of Alberta. Researchers found that talking on a cell phone while driving wasn't safe, even if the device was a hands-free one.
We already know that talking on a handheld phone increases the risk of a crash by four times.
The study was conducted using a driving course simulator with male participants between the ages of 18 and 45. In one test, the men drove without distraction. In the second round, the men held a two-minute conversation with a hands-free device. Researchers learned that the rate of increased error was somewhere between 20 and 50 percent.
Researchers in a separate study at the same university found that interestingly, rates of cell phone use while driving increased with income. In fact, those earning over $100,000 were among the top behind-the-wheel cell phone users. This is different from what we so often here which is that teens are the primary problem when it comes to distracted driving. Apparently, it's also practiced by those who clearly should know better.