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Some blame phones, apps for increase in traffic deaths

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - For the first time in years, traffic fatalities are dramatically up across the country and some wonder if drivers using apps on smartphones are partly to blame.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, fatal crashes in 2015 were up 7.5% from 2014. The NHTSA hasn't seen such a sharp increase for 50 years.

In Indiana, there was a nearly 10% uptick; 745 Hoosiers died in 2014 and 823 died the next year.

While there are many reasons behind these accidents, authorities and safety experts believe distracted driving is a huge factor.

The New York Times reports insurance companies believe drivers using electronic devices on the road is the number one cause  of traffic fatalities.

There is cause for concern. Florida authorities are investigating a fatal crash that killed five people. A passenger in one car was using Snapchat in the moments before the accident. The video shows the driver going more than 115 mph.

We rode along with State Trooper Troy Sunier to see how distracted folks were on our highways in central Indiana. Within 30 minutes, we saw multiple drivers speeding while on their phones. We even witnessed an accident caused by a driver who was paying more attention to Trooper Sunier handing out a ticket than the road.

Sunier said there's no doubt drivers using phones and apps is dangerously distracting.

"It's curiosity killed the cat when a text message goes off," he said. "My best advice is to put the phone in airplane mode or to turn it off all together."

Many people use a GPS app on their phone while driving. State police suggests going hands free and using voice command so that you're not distracted.

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