Live Streams and Deadly Driving

The digital age has made us all stars of our own movies. With one click of a button, our cell phones become cameras that broadcast whatever we want to show our audience.  We use social media – Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter – as the medium for our movies and selfies, and we eagerly await responses to validate the value of our latest production.

These videos, live streams and pictures are especially popular with younger generations. One survey found that the average millennial will take over 25,000 selfies in their lifetime. Mobile video is proving to be just as popular. One report found that roughly 77 million millennials are regularly viewing video on their phones.

But with the emergence of live streaming and social engagement has come an unforeseen problem. Live streaming a video while driving is an extremely risky activity, one that has been making headlines that should concern all of us.

  • In December of 2016, CBS Boston reported that a Rhode Island driver broadcasted a Facebook Live stream of himself driving recklessly, travelling at speeds of over 100 miles per hour and darting between vehicles. The man crashed into a garbage truck and a concrete barrier, suffering serious injuries.
  • That same month, in Pennsylvania, a teen driver and her passenger were streaming a video on Facebook Live when they were killed after being struck from behind by a tractor-trailer.
  • Earlier in 2016, a young woman in Georgia posted Snapchat videos that captured her driving at speeds of up to 113 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour speed zone. The teen struck an Uber driver, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the collision.
  • Shortly after posting a Snapchat video showing that he traveled at speeds around 115 miles per hour, a 22-year-old in Florida died in a fiery crash. His 19-year-old passenger, along with a mother and her two children, were also killed in the crash.

In the case of Snapchat, a feature of the app came under fire. A “speed filter,” which displays how fast a person is traveling, could encourage a driver to drive recklessly to impress viewers with breakneck speeds. While the company said that it posted a “do not Snap and drive” warning when users enabled the filter, critics were quick to point out that a warning did not go far enough to prevent reckless drivers from using the app.

The speed filter on Snapchat is a cause for concern, but the phenomenon of people posting videos or streaming live video of themselves while driving is tied to a broader concern on our roads. Safety advocates have cited driver distraction as a major contributor to the rise in vehicle crashes and fatalities in recent years.

The makers of apps like Snapchat and Apple’s FaceTime, along with platforms like Facebook and Twitter, must find a way to reduce the risks users take when they post or broadcast in dangerous situations. But users, too, need to be aware that they are putting themselves, their passengers and those they share the road with in great danger when they use their mobile devices while behind the wheel.

All of us should discourage live streaming behind the wheel, whether it is being done by our children or our friends. Live streaming is increasing in popularity and virtually every company that has a hand in social media is looking to establish a presence in the new technology. Developers, users and even audiences should look for ways to prevent further crashes resulting from driver video streaming.