The number of people injured in car accidents involving a distracted driver is on the rise, and distracted driving is a factor in nearly one in five accidents resulting in injuries. This increase coincides with an increase in the use of cell phones and smart phones in general and particularly while driving.
Approximately 95% of Americans own cell phones and 77% own a smart phone, and the use of these devices appears to be increasing in frequency and duration over time. Approximately two thirds of drivers reported talking on a cell phone while driving, and nearly a third reported reading or sending text messages or emails while driving. One study reported that over 90% of college students initiate, reply or read a text message while driving.
Distracted driving can take many forms including texting, using a cell phone, talking to passengers, looking at maps, grooming, eating, daydreaming, smoking, adjusting the stereo, or using a navigation system. These distractions are often classified into four broad categories: (1) visual distractions, such as taking your eyes off the road; (2) physical distractions, which include eating or smoking; (3) audible distractions, like listening to someone speaking; and (4) mental distractions, including daydreaming or focusing on something other than driving.
A distraction can include one or more of these categories. For example, reading a text message may involve receiving an audible notification, picking up the phone, looking at the message, and thinking about the content.
Mobile phone use while driving is common and can easily distract a driver from the road. Talking on a cell phone is a problem, but smart phones offer many functions to divert a driver’s attention, such as text messages, emails, social media, music, and map features.
Texting is particularly dangerous because it takes the driver’s attention away from driving more frequently and for longer periods of time than other distractions. One study found that text messaging increased distraction-related accidents six fold. The average time a driver takes their eyes off the road while texting is five seconds. At 55 mph, five seconds is enough time to travel the length of a football field.
California has attempted to address the problem by prohibiting drivers from holding or using a cell phone unless it is set up for hands-free operation. Nevertheless, drivers continue to reach for their phone while driving. So put down the cell phones while driving, and contact an attorney if you have been injured by a distracted driver.