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As Social Media Evolves, Distracted Driving Worsens

Earlier this month, in eastern Pennsylvania, two teens were involved in a fatal car accident that seems to have stemmed from their use of Facebook Live. The app, which allows users to stream real-time videos of themselves on Facebook, is described by the company as "the best way to interact with viewers" and to "express yourself in ways that delight your followers."

First introduced in 2015, Facebook Live has, like other social media tools, rapidly gained in popularity. Such apps are, of course, an increasingly important means of interaction. They also help transmit - and create - breaking news; Facebook Live is perhaps best known for its central role in capturing evidence following the police shooting of a man at a traffic stop.

Yet research suggests that the use of social media leads to compulsive behavior - it can be as addictive as alcohol or drugs, and is now among the leading causes of car accidents and related fatalities.

Cell phones drastically increase the likelihood of an accident

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, cell phones are involved in more than 1 million car accidents annually, leading to over half a million injuries and 6,000 deaths. The use of a phone increases the risk of a crash by more than fourfold. The scary part, maybe, is that as social media continues to evolve, so, too, will our dependence on it.

Issues of legal liability are still being sorted out. In Pennsylvania, texting-and-driving is illegal commonwealth-wide, but no laws have yet been passed with regard to streaming services. With this in mind, attorneys are still necessary to protect the interests and rights of anyone involved in such a crash.

In Tobyhanna, one of the accident victims was recording herself on Facebook Live as she drove along I-385. ("Are you going live?" the passenger could be heard saying, before the video was taken down.) Their car was rolling on a spare tire, or possibly a flat. Shortly after midnight, a tractor-trailer collided into them. The recording continued for nearly seven minutes, although the screen was simply black.

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