Fatalities connected to auto accidents were on the decline. For the last four decades, the numbers of deaths associated with car wrecks was shrinking. Unfortunately, this streak has come to an end.

According to The New York Times, 2015 marked the largest percentage increase in highway fatalities in 50 years.

The increase is not taken lightly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls the jump in fatalities a “crisis that needs to be addressed now.”

What has caused the increase in car accident fatalities?

Determining the cause of this jump is not an easy task. However, professionals in various fields point to the increased reliance on electronic devices like smartphones and navigation devices as the culprit. These devices, it is argued, result in distracted driving practices that contribute to these catastrophic accidents.

Even insurance companies agree. A senior vice president of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Robert Gordon, pointed to the growing reliance on electronic devices while driving as a dangerous practice. He stated that this new trend is “a serious public safety concern for the nation.”

What can be done to reverse this trend?

President of the nonprofit National Safety Council and former chairwoman for the National Transportation Safety Board, Deborah Hersman, told the New York Times that the issue is not a physical one resulting from holding the phone, but a cognitive one. Having hands-free devices and voice capabilities does not translate to a reduction in distraction. The fact that the driver has to think about sending the text or making the phone call is the true distraction.

Some technological advances can help reduce these accidents. The same piece in The Times pointed to lane assist technology and advances in automated driving features as a way to help use technology to reduce the chances of involvement in a fatal crash.

What about those who lose loved ones in car wrecks?

Automobile accidents that result in fatalities impact families and loved ones of the victim. Those who are in this situation who believe the other driver was accountable and that distraction may have played a role have options. Contact an experienced lawyer to discuss potential remedies for your situation.