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How many people die on the road because of smartphones?

A recent Bloomberg article ("Smartphones Are Killing Americans, But Nobody's Counting"), says that no special status is accorded to fatalities resulting from cellphone or other distractions.

Deaths from this behavior is simply lumped in by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration with all the other deaths - about 40,000 per year.

The article focuses on the efforts of Jennifer Smith, who has sought for almost ten years to put distracted driving in the spotlight, and to reduce the number of people killed that way every year.

Instead of reducing the number of deaths, they have steadily increased. But the exact number of distraction-related deaths - nobody knows.

The smartphone explosion

In the past two years, smartphone ownership has skyrocketed - 81 percent of Americans now own one. And they are on the phone and on the road at the same time, texting or doing Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

It has not gotten through to people that this behavior stands a good chance of killing people.

Who suffers most? The people who are most vulnerable to speeding automobiles - bikers, cyclists and pedestrians, many of whom are elderly, handicapped, or small children.

Last year alone, nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed -- a 22 percent increase from two years ago.

Where do we go from here?

The NHTSA knows that smartphones are an important part of this increase. But they need data to implement plans to reduce those deaths. And so far, that data does not exist.

Until we get a handle in just how many of us are dying because an oncoming driver is on Facebook - the deaths will continue.

We at William Long Whitesell are committed to improving safety. We urge everyone to switch off their phones while driving. The lives you save may be the people you love.

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