It took forever, but Snapchat is finally getting rid of its speed filter, which may have led to car crashes that killed about a dozen people. The filter, introduced back in 2013, allows users to document how fast they are traveling. The user’s speed can be overlaid on an image or video, which they can then send to friends.
For years, safety advocates have been telling anyone who will listen that the speed filter encourages reckless driving. They’ve said it encourages teenagers to drive at high speeds so they can brag about it to their buddies. But despite warnings from those critics, Snapchat has defended the feature.
The speed filter has allegedly caused a number of terrible car crashes, including a collision that left a driver in Georgia with permanent brain damage.
Then there are the fatalities. In 2015, the Snapchat feature was connected to a Philadelphia crash in which three young women were killed. The filter was also apparently involved in a 2016 high-speed crash that killed five people in Florida. And in perhaps the most gruesome incident, three young men in Wisconsin died when they crashed into a tree. The Snapchat speed filter said they were going 123 miles per hour.
Now Snapchat is finally getting rid of the filter. But what, exactly, was the holdup? A lot of people, including families and their lawyers, would like to know.
“Lives will be saved. Crashes will be prevented, but the lawyer in me says, ‘My God, why did it take so long?’,” Joel Feldman, the co-founder of the nonprofit End Distracted Driving, told NPR. Feldman’s organization is one of the groups that pushed Snapchat to remove the feature.
NPR contacted Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, to ask them why the company spent so much time refusing to budge from its support for the speed filter. Snap’s response was confusing. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our Snapchat community,” a Snap spokeswoman said.
Then, a month later, the same spokeswoman said the speed filter would soon be removed. But not because of the deaths. She said the feature “is barely used by Snapchatters.” She continued, “And in light of that, we are removing it altogether.” She said it could take a couple of weeks before the filter disappears for all of its 500 million users.
It’s true that the speed filter is not one of Snapchat’s most popular tools. Still, Snap is going to have to face the legal consequences of the filter’s apparent connection to the fatal crashes. For example, in May of this year a federal appeals court ruled that the family of a young man who was killed in the Wisconsin crash should be able to sue Snap for negligence in designing the speed filter.
Last week, Snap asked the court to throw out the case. They insisted the speed filter did not cause the accident.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The featured image of this article is a stock image used for illustrative purposes only.