In Sicily, too: Put down your device and pay attention to driving.


The Sicilian debriefing might take a while, but in the interim, I’ll simply note that our Mt. Etna excursion driver/guide offered scathing comments about the encroachment of distracted drivers in his neck of the woods. Given that driving in a place like Sicily involves a good deal more negotiation than we’re accustomed to indulging in L’America, my hunch is that enforcement there eventually will be as draconian as the drunk driving laws, which typically involve zero tolerance.

Biggest Spike in Traffic Deaths in 50 Years? Blame Apps, by Neal E. Boudette (New York Times)

The messaging app Snapchat allows motorists to post photos that record the speed of the vehicle. The navigation app Waze rewards drivers with points when they report traffic jams and accidents. Even the game Pokémon Go has drivers searching for virtual creatures on the nation’s highways.

When distracted driving entered the national consciousness a decade ago, the problem was mainly people who made calls or sent texts from their cellphones. The solution then was to introduce new technologies to keep drivers’ hands on the wheel. Innovations since then — car Wi-Fi and a host of new apps — have led to a boom in internet use in vehicles that safety experts say is contributing to a surge in highway deaths.

After steady declines over the last four decades, highway fatalities last year recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse. In the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped 10.4 percent, to 17,775, from the comparable period of 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“This is a crisis that needs to be addressed now,” Mark R. Rosekind, the head of the agency, said in an interview …