Teenagers and adults alike might joke about how they’re “addicted” to checking their social media accounts. FOMO (or Fear Of Missing Out) is a very real phenomenon, especially when it comes to those carefully curated Instagram posts and Facebook updates. But some experts are concerned that we’ve taken our obsession too far. Although livestreaming can be a very effective way to share information in real time, it can also be a means of distraction — and that distraction can sometimes be fatal.
Last month, an intoxicated California teenager who was livestreaming to Instagram behind the wheel ended up crashing her car, injuring one passenger and killing her younger sister, who was sitting in the backseat. Now, experts and parents are concerned that addiction to technology could literally be just as deadly as an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
Obdulia Sanchez, 18, was driving her Buick on a California highway under the influence of alcohol one night in July. She was livestreaming on Instagram while singing along to the car radio and giving the middle finger to the camera. But then she lost control of the car, crashed through a barbed wire fence, and flipped over the car in a field. Sanchez’s 14-year-old sister, Jacqueline, was ejected from the car.
Astoundingly, Sanchez then turned the camera on herself and angled it so that the body of her deceased sister would be in view. Buzzfeed reports that Sanchez can be heard confessing in the graphic video:
“This is the last thing I wanted to happen… I killed my sister, but I don’t care. I killed my sister. I know I’m going to prison, but I don’t care. I’m sorry, baby. I’ma hold it down … rest in peace, sweetie.”
Every year, 1.5 million people are arrested for drunk driving. Sanchez is currently facing charges of driving under the influence and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. California Highway Patrol spokesperson Wyatt Foster told Buzzfeed that the video was being used as evidence in the ensuing investigation. Foster says the CHP is working closely with the DA’s office to ascertain whether Sanchez should face additional, more serious charges.
But just how widespread is this livestreaming phenomenon, and is it inherently dangerous? In court, Sanchez admitted she had livestreamed while driving many times before. But she’s not the only one. South African comic Mondli Mzizi regularly livestreams while on the road as a means of entertaining his fans. But if drivers are using hands-free mobile devices, there’s not much police can do to stop car livestreaming. And while hand-held cell phone use while driving is completely banned in 15 states, U.S. laws still need to catch up with technology to ensure road safety.
It goes without saying, of course, that families should stress to their children that they should never drink and drive. But until the law starts to reflect our obsession with social media and technology, it’s largely up to parents to stress the importance of refraining from all non-emergency mobile activity while driving.