Phones Track Everything but Their Role in Car Wrecks

Cellphones can track what we say and write, where we go, what we buy and what we search on the internet. But they still aren’t being used to track one of the biggest public health threats: crashes caused by drivers distracted by the phones.

More than a decade after federal and state governments seized on the dangers that cellphone use while driving posed and began enacting laws to stop it, there remains no definitive database of the number of crashes or fatalities caused by cellphone distraction. Safety experts say that current estimates most likely understate a worsening problem.

The absence of clear data comes as collisions are rising. Car crashes recorded by the police rose 16 percent from 2020 to 2021, to 16,700 a day from 14,400 a day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2021, nearly 43,000 Americans died in crashes, a 16-year high.

Full story: Phones Track Everything but Their Role in Car Wrecks

10 Replies to “Phones Track Everything but Their Role in Car Wrecks”

  1. Cell phone tracking has become normalized throughout modern history. The main issue comes within what should be tracked and what should not be tracked. However, many individuals are against cell phone tracking in general. Cell phone tracking technology could be used to determine if certain individuals are distracted during the time of an accident, or could be used to determine if it was the cause of the accident as well. The question is, should cell phone tracking be allowed to be used at all, or is this an invasion of privacy? And if so, should we be able to pick and choose the situations in which we do track cell phones?

    1. In this post you brought up some excellent points in regards to cell phone tracking and its impact in current times. I also think you have brought up some excellent questions within your post, specifically of being able to pick and choose the situations in which we do track cell phones. I think that the best compromise to the issues of phone tracking and using cell information would be to use them in specific circumstances and use them more to help form context rather than as concrete evidence. As I mentioned in my post on this topic, there is a lot of room for error in how phone tracking works, thus using it in a more sparing way can help without causing other damages.

      1. Mateo, I think you have made some great points about cellphone tracking and its use in leading toward distracted driving. We should be more careful with how we use cellphone data, we should focus more on understanding these situations rather than using it as hard evidence. This article highlights a big problem; which is we don’t have a clear database on crashes caused by distracted driving. This is very disturbing to me especially since crash rates are going up. We need to understand and use technology to adapt to being able to track how phones are used while driving, so we can make roads safer. By understanding cellphone usage in crashes, we can make preventative steps to ensure safer driving conditions for civilians.

    2. I think we can all agree that cell phone tracking is a very common practice within our society. As soon as you get a new phone or update your old one, scroll to the bottom of those terms and conditions, accept them and begin using the phone, you are being watched. This is a known fact to many and oftentimes if we actually read those endless terms and conditions we would probably be a little more hesitant to click accept so quickly. There really aren’t many things on our phones that are truly private to us. The question here however isn’t whether or not cell phone tracking should be allowed because it already is, for so many things. The question is, can it be used to determine if a person was distracted due to use and caused a car crash. This is controversial because this information could potentially be used to prosecute people in court if we cross that criminal liability border.

    3. Could tracking help locate the lost or catch criminals, maybe saving lives? But at what price? Would this lead to a surveillance state, and might the information be utilized for purposes other than preventing urgent threats? If it is misused what would justice look like? How can someone protect themselves in a surveillance state? Would tracking data on the phone be able to properly detect collisions? and would it ever truly be a deterrent to distracted driving? I think individuals should be able to choose which data they share but I also understand that data tracking could be extremely useful. I think finding the sweet spot between users and tracking will be the only solution but I do think people are going to have an issue with being tracked no matter what, I think American culture does not foster a open environment that would ever be fully okay.

  2. Would having cellphones self report if they were in use during a car accident be beneficial or be an invasion of privacy? This is an important question to bring up as there are two very distinct sides to this. Some may argue that this is incredibly beneficial because if you are breaking a law or committing an act that is deliberately harmful you should suffer the maximum punishment for the negative behavior. The other side would argue that regardless of right or wrong that it is still an invasion of ones privacy and the number of mitigating circumstances can ruin peoples lives, such as this example; someone crashes a car while trying to hang up a spam call while driving. They weren’t originally using the phone but now the phone reports that they did, ruining someones life and creating multiple lawsuits in the process.

    1. Cell phones self reporting would be an invasion of privacy for the average person, but probably not much of an invasion in the grand scheme of things. Regarding crime itself, it would be very hard to determine if the driver crashed due to phone use, or if the phone was merely on during the wreck, perhaps for music or a phone call. To determine the actual activity, you would have to see what specifically was done on the device shortly before the crash, which would involve a great amount of access to the phone. This would arguably be more of an invasion of privacy when compared to the mere self report of the crash, and many would likely speak out against this type of extensive access to their private devices. Regardless, there are apps and other emergency systems that drivers use, and with the widespread reporting of car accidents and prevalence of security cameras, the need for self reporting from mobile devices is not high.

  3. Cell phones over the years have gotten more and more advanced. When looking back it used to just be a flip phone to call and text but now we have a computer in our hands that holds so much information for us. Cell phones and watches like Apple are getting more advanced to wear they can detect severe crashes and dial 911 for the user. However, it isn’t 100% accurate so it doesn’t always work. So the question I am asking is how could phones be able to detect and be certain that a crash even happened?

  4. After reading this article, I agree that something needs to be done to hold people accountable for their actions on the road especially when other people are put in harm’s way because of it. With that being said, to what extent could this be done? Would freely monitoring and evaluating a person’s phone usage in a way such as this be a violation of their right to privacy? It is understood, whether widely or not, that none of our rights are absolute and that there are exceptions to all of them. What are those exceptions in this case? As it stands, authorities need a subpoena to be able to access records as such but when does it shift to a larger issue of public safety as opposed to personal privacy. If we don’t want to cross those lines in what ways could we determine phone usage in relation to crashes without encroaching on someone’s privacy?

  5. As unfortunate as the stark rise in accident reports is, this problem may not ever truly be alleviated, at least not through looking at phone data. Being allowed to scrub through everyone’s usage while in a vehicle would absolutely be an invasion of privacy, and not only that, a major vacuum of time and resources in our highway patrol departments. I believe the best way to counteract this issue is to strongly campaign against the act of texting and driving itself, with PSA ads and other materials. Will people be more reluctant to pull out their phones if they see the consequences in a realistic way? This strategy could prove redundant, but I believe it makes more sense than trying to go through everyone’s data.

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