With the rise in popularity of camera-equipped smartphones and photo sharing social media outlets, people have begun to document their entire lives in pictures and then post them for the world to see. While it can be harmless fun to snap a shot of a great dinner one is about to eat and put a filter on it on Instagram, in some cases people’s picture-taking can turn deadly. In November 2013, a traffic safety group issued a press release about the alarming rise in the number of people taking “selfies” – pictures of themselves – while driving.
The AAA announced in November 2013 that it was going to start following hashtags, or labels that people put on their photos when they post them so that the pictures will turn up in search results, that indicate people engaging in dangerous driving behaviors. Some of the hashtags AAA is following include #driving, #drivingtowork, #drivingselfie, #drivingfast, and #drivinghome. A search of Instagram that AAA conducted found 3 million photos tagged with #driving, about 3,500 photos tagged with #drivingselfie, more than 9,000 pictures tagged with #drivingtowork and about 50,000 tagged with #drivinghome.
A particularly troubling hashtag trend AAA noted is #rainx. Drivers stick their phones out the window while driving in the rain in an attempt to photograph the beads of rain on their windshields after treating their windshields with the water-repelling product called Rain-X. Then they post the pictures with the hashtag #rainx. In one instance a photo tagged with #rainx had an image of the vehicle’s speedometer in the picture, and the driver was travelling at 70 m.p.h. while taking the photo.
Distracted driving, in its many forms, is a serious threat to public safety. AAA reported that more than 400 people died in auto accidents attributable to cellphone use in 2012. Many traffic safety advocates believe that the number of auto accident fatalities is actually underreported, since it is often difficult for police to prove that a driver was using a phone at the time of an accident.
In the two seconds that it takes to snap a photo, a driver who is travelling 60 m.p.h. covers 176 feet – while not looking at the road, according to the AAA’s press release. Taking photos while driving takes a person’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and attention off the task of driving. Such a powerful combination of distractions can easily lead to auto accidents.
People who take risks while behind the wheel, such as taking selfies or documenting rain beads, threaten the safety of everyone on the road. When distracted drivers cause accidents, they should be held responsible. If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by a distracted driver, speak with a skilled auto accident attorney who can help you recover for your losses.