With 40,200 deaths, 2016 was the deadliest year on the road in a decade. While drunk driving and higher speed limits are factors, distractions are increasing the danger as well.
In 2011, 52 percent of drivers reported owning a smartphone, and by 2014 that number soared to 80 percent. It's no surprise, then, that using a phone while driving is distracting. However, what many people may not realize is how long the distraction lasts.
In a study conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic & Safety, researchers found that drivers can experience a "hangover effect" where the mind stays distracted for up to 27 seconds after using voice-to-text features. These include actions like sending text messages, making phone calls or updating social media.
That means even if drivers perform some of these tasks while parked, or stopped at a red light, "Once you start moving, even after you stop using [the technology], your mind is still not on the task," Robert Sinclair, spokesperson for AAA-New York, told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.
"The level of distraction gets so bad that a person gets in a zone where its 'inattention blindness' … where you're looking at the road but you're not seeing what's in front of you. We're talking about pedestrians, cyclists, other cars, red lights, stop signs, those sorts of things," he added.
"There's no technology, that we're aware of right now, that would enable you to do these functions while you're driving safely."
One company, San Francisco start-up Navdy, intends to lessen the danger behind the wheel with its heads up display technology. It puts the information that's on your phone—whether its navigation, emails, or text messages—on a small screen in front of the driver.
While it's still distracting, founder Doug Simpson says it's better than the driver taking their eyes off the road.
"People are going to make phone calls, they are going to use turn by turn navigation, they are going to listen to music. This is a far safer way to do these things in the car than the alternative," Simpson told CNBC.
Yet Sinclair said the AAA has been advising technology and vehicle manufacturers that "they need to have some sort of system in the vehicle that will shut these systems off while the vehicle is in motion."
According to Sinclair, the auto manufacturers responded to AAA's warnings by saying their voice activated technologies help mitigate the danger.