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Beyond distracted: Does Snapchat encourage reckless driving?

An alarming spike in car accident fatalities has traffic safety analysts concerned. For the first time in forty years highway fatalities have jumped over 10 percent in 2015. Recent numbers are showing that the outlook for 2016 is not any better. As traffic deaths climb analysts look at smartphone apps, such as Snapchat, as a cause.

Distracted driving has increased almost as much as traffic fatalities this past year at 8.8 percent. More drivers can be seen browsing their Facebook, reading the news and playing games while sitting in traffic. These apps are leading to the rise in distracted driving, but other apps can be even more dangerous. Snapchat has come under recent scrutiny for encouraging reckless driving. The app has an infamous speed filter which can track your miles per hour and display it on the screen.

Snapchat turns vehicle speed into a race

A recent example of a driver using the Snapchat filter has ended in a deadly accident. A young driver and his passenger in Florida captured video on Snapchat recording their speed at 115.6 miles per hour right before they crashed. The accident took theirs and three other lives. This type of behavior goes beyond distracted driving and moves into reckless endangerment. These drivers created a hazard for everyone on the freeway that day.

Critics of Snapchat's speed filter say that the only purpose of the feature is to encourage users to drive as fast as possible. Snapchat has responded by saying that they continue to discourage users from using the filter while driving with a warning message. Critics state that the only safe option is to remove the feature all together.

Is blocking drivers' phones a sensible solution?

In response to the growing uptick of distracted driving and traffic deaths the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed that phone makers must take action to prevent more deaths. The NHTSA is urging smartphone makers to block certain apps, such as Snapchat, in moving vehicles.

The proposal is being met with opposition from phone makers who say that the proposal would restrict innovation and stunt the development of technology which could improve the safety of phones for drivers. Phone makers also realize that any one company who decides to step forward and block drivers could be met with a huge public backlash. With no one company wanting to take the plunge, the idea remains stagnant for now.

While the nation grapples with the best way to reduce traffic fatalities Texans are still legally able to use their cell phones while driving. Some local areas limit the use of phones while driving, but cities such as Temple, Round Rock and Georgetown remain relaxed about smartphone regulation. Even if laws do not prohibit phone use, negligent drivers can still be held responsible for the damage that they cause. Anyone who has been injured by a reckless driver who was using their phone can seek compensation with the help of an attorney.

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