Apps (or applications) are what separates smartphones from cell phones. They greatly expand the usefulness and utility of your smartphone beyond texting or calling someone. But using apps requires attention and effort. When that attention and effort distracts a driver from safely driving, the results can be deadly.

Two young women from Pennsylvania are dead after the driver turned on her smartphone and starting using Facebook Live to broadcast her trip. It was a short video of Brooke Miranda Hughes travelling on Interstate 380 near Tobyhanna with her friend Chaniya Morrison-Toomey, reports the Scranton Times-Tribune.

“Are you going live?”

Morrison-Toomey asks, then lights flash inside the car, followed by the sounds of screeching tires, and then the video goes black. That was the moment a tractor trailer truck rear-ended the car. Several minutes pass before you hear a man talking and see a blurry, bearded face before the video ends.

They declared Hughes, 18, and Morrison-Toomey, 19, dead at the scene. Pennsylvania state police said the teens were traveling very slowly in the right lane of I-380 southbound. It’s believed the car may have had disabilities. But that’s not clear because the car was so badly damaged and burned.

The truck driver didn’t sustain injuries, and they didn’t charge him for the accident. It’s not clear whether Morrison-Toomey’s use of her smartphone played a role in the accident. Possibly if she were more focused on the situation, she may have been driving faster or somehow avoided the accident. No one will know for sure.

For some drivers, it’s not enough just to text or talk on the phone while they drive. They use Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps or another app. Some drivers have gained notoriety for posting videos of themselves driving recklessly and speeding down streets and highways. All these distractions are adding up to what may be a significant increase in traffic accident statistics.

After forty years of steady declines, 2015 highway fatalities recorded the highest annual percentage increase in fifty years. And the 2016 statistics are worse.

In the first six months of 2016 highway deaths increased 10.4%, to 17,775, over the same period in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reports the New York Times.

In fact, too many drivers are using smartphones. And manufacturers are incorporating them into newer cars, allowing their use through voice commands. This allows the driver to use the phone while keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t distracting drivers. This new technology may not reduce distraction. It may just encourage drivers to use more of their phone’s functions while driving. Drivers’ eyes and hands may be in the right places. But their minds won’t be focusing on the task at hand – driving.

Insurance companies closely track auto accidents and have taken the position that the increased use of electronic devices by drivers is the biggest reason for the rise in traffic fatalities, according to Robert Gordon, a senior vice president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

“This is a serious public safety concern for the nation,” Gordon said at a conference held by the National Transportation Safety Board. “We are all trying to figure out to what extent this is the new normal.”

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at (973) 358-6134 or by using our online quick connect form. Contact us so you can learn about your legal rights and take action to protect your ability to seek compensation