Distracted driving comes in many forms, from talking on the phone, to messing with a navigation system, or posing for selfies on the latest social media app. Over the weekend, the latter distraction, combined with another dangerous driving hazard — drunk driving — to claim the life of a teen in California.
NBC News reports that a 14-year-old California girl was killed Friday evening when her sister, who was allegedly impaired and using social media, crashed a vehicle the teens were passengers in. Another teen was injured in the crash.
The 18-year-old, who was arrested on suspicion of DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, allegedly live-streamed the crash’s aftermath on Instagram.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the 2003 Buick veered onto the right should of a road, when the driver overcorrected, causing the car to swerve across lanes before crashing into a fence and overturning into a field.
Authorities tell NBC News that they are aware of a video posted to social media that was allegedly recorded during and after the crash.
CHP says it is investigating the video and working to determine if recording the footage contributed to the crash.
The video, which BuzzFeed News reports was on Instagram for nearly 19 hours before being deleted, purportedly shows the 18-year-old driver singing to music and flipping off the camera before the footage goes blurry and screams can be heard. The video then shows the driver talking to the camera near what is allegedly her sister’s lifeless body.
“My sister is f—— dying. Look, I f—— love my sister to death. I don’t give a f—. Man, we about to die. This is the last thing I wanted to happen to us, but it just did. Jacqueline, please wake up,” the driver can be heard saying on the video. “I don’t f‑‑‑‑‑‑ care though,” Sanchez continued. “I’m a hold it down. I love you, rest in peace, sweetie. If you don’t survive, baby, I am so f‑‑‑‑‑‑ sorry. I did not mean to kill you, sweetie. Sweetie, I am f‑‑‑‑‑‑ sorry. Sweetie, please, wake up!”
Each day, nine people are killed in vehicles crashes that involve a distracted driver, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With consumers’ reliance on smartphones and chaining technology, the types of distractions are increasing. For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now records the number of instances in which drivers are distracted by manipulating handheld devices.
Drivers are counted as visibly manipulating handheld devices if they appear to be using some kind of device to text message, surf the web, check emails, manually dial a number, play games, or use the phone in front of their faces.
“Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds,” according to NHTSA. “At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”
While NHTSA’s most recent statistics [PDF] don’t show a significant increase in the number of drivers partaking in this kind of distraction, the decrease from 2.2% to 2.1% between 2015 and 2016 was not considered statistically significant.
Still, young drivers have been observed manipulating electronic devices at higher rates than older drivers since 2007.
At the same time, NHTSA found that the percentage of passenger vehicle drivers talking on handheld cell phones decreased from 3.8% to 3.3%.
“You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention,” the agency says on its distracted driving resource page. “Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.”
While NHTSA and the CDC do not break out the number of drivers using social media while behind the wheel, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety contended in 2015 that such distractions are on the rise.
For instance, in Sept. 2015, there were 22,067 Instagram posts under #drivingselfie. A look at the hashtag today shows more than 30,000 posts.
A survey from AT&T also points to an increase in distractive driving related to social media and selfies. According to a 2015 AT&T report, one in five respondents — or 17% — admitted to taking selfies or other photos while driving.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety note that 39 states have taken steps to decrease distracted driving, by enacting laws that ban text messaging for all drivers.
“In order to get people to pay attention while operating a vehicle and to adopt safer behaviors, education must be combined with strong laws and appropriate enforcement,” the group says. “This is the tried and true method to change behavior in order to improve safety.”