What role do cell phones play in contributing to auto accidents?

Most people probably know that cellphone use in general can be dangerous while operating a motor vehicle. However, those same people often fail to put down their cellphones while they are behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Cellphones have become such an integral part of everyday life in today’s society. But the widespread growth of cellphone use has come with some problems, and auto accidents are one of them. This begs the question of what role do cellphones play in contributing to accidents?

Statistics from studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Safety Council and other sources, help to reveal the true dangers of cellphone use while driving. For example, 25 percent of all auto accidents involve a cellphone, and people increase their risk of an accident by 400 percent when they use a cellphone while driving.

Another data point that helps to capture the dangers of texting and driving in particular, comes from the NSC’s Annual Estimate of Cell Phone Crashes for the year 2013. That report showed that 341,000 motor vehicle accidents during that year involved texting and driving.

Younger drivers seem to be especially dangerous when it comes to cellphone use behind the wheel. People who are between the ages of 21 and 24 are most likely to drive while sending a text or email. Likewise, 40 percent of teenagers responded affirmatively to a survey asking whether they had been a passenger in a vehicle where the driver’s cellphone use endangered the people in the vehicle.

According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, a driver can safely take their eyes off the road for only two seconds. By contrast, another study revealed that it takes an average of nearly five seconds to send a text message.

The data confirms what most people should already know: cellphones and driving are not a good mix. Cellphone use is a form of distracted driving that leads to fatal car accidents on a regular basis. People who refuse to put their phones down while driving could also be engaging in negligence toward the other people with whom they share the roadways.

Are in-car features more distracting than cellphones?

The number of things that can cause distraction for a driver at any given time seems to only be increasing, and researchers have found that even the features that are now coming as standard with newer vehicles can be dangerously distracting.

Essentially, distraction is now a standard in-car feature

Many newer vehicles now come with so-called “infotainment systems.” These systems include DVD players, touch-screen radio controls, voice-activated controls and GPS devices. While many of these features are convenient, they can easily take a driver’s attention off the road for long periods of time, just like a phone does when a driver reads a text or checks social media while driving. Consider the following:

  • When entering an address in a navigation system, a driver can be distracted for a long as 40 seconds at a time.
  • Even looking away from the road for two seconds can double the chance of an accident.
  • Automakers can decrease distracted driving and make the roads safer by making certain features in infotainment systems shut off while the car is in use.

When a driver is not focusing on the task at hand, he or she not only endangers everyone in that particular car, but also everyone else on the road. Car features should enhance the driving experience and make driving safer, not lead to a higher risk of a crash.

Victims of distracted driving collisions

If you have been injured by a distracted driver, you should learn more about your options for obtaining the maximum available compensation. Insurance companies routinely make initial settlement offers that fail to cover the full cost of a crash. For example, you may have ongoing medical problems, as well as loss of income and earning capacity. To learn more about your options, talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Phone apps may be the latest distraction causing auto accidents

Most drivers know that talking on the phone and texting while driving is never a good idea.

Teenagers can be especially susceptible to distracted driving because they are not as mature as adults, and they lack the driving experience of many adults. Although texting and driving is a problem among teenagers, it may not be the most dangerous activity that teenagers are undertaking while behind the wheel.

According to a study from Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions, only 27 percent of the teens who were surveyed admitted to texting and driving. But, a whopping 68 percent of the teen respondents reported that they use apps on their phone while driving. Perhaps the most alarming finding of the study is that 80 percent of the surveyed group did not think that using an app is a distraction.

Even when teenage drivers know that using an app is dangerous, this doesn’t always keep them from doing it. For example, 64 percent of the surveyed teens thought that using a music app is a distraction while driving. However, 46 percent admitted to using music apps regardless of the known danger. Likewise, 41 percent of the teens thought that using a navigation app would be a distraction, but 58 percent admitted to using those apps while driving.

Driving requires a person’s undivided attention, and phone use prevents the driver from focusing on the road. Too many auto accidents result from the negligence of distracted drivers, and phone apps are just the most recent type of available distraction. No matter a person’s age, they should avoid texting and driving, using their phone apps while driving, and doing anything else that distracts them from the task of operating their vehicle safely.

Accident victims who are injured due to a distracted driver can pursue legal action in an attempt to recover compensation for medical expenses and other damages. Likewise, family members of those lost in a fatal car accident can pursue a claim against any driver who may have caused the accident through any form of distracted driving.

Despite known risks, four in five students text behind the wheel

Even though the dangers of texting while driving are well known, a recent study found that four out of five college students choose to do it anyways. The study was intended to look at the relationship between having an impulsive personality and the likelihood of texting while driving, but instead found that impulsiveness was not a predictor for those surveyed.

Instead, they found that the men they surveyed tended to downplay the true danger of texting behind the wheel and were under the impression that if they are skilled drivers that they were not at a high risk of being involved in a texting while driving car accident. Of course even a skilled driver will be at risk of an accident if they take their eyes off of the road, which is necessary to read or compose a text message.

During those few seconds anything can happen and the slower reaction time of someone who has not been watching the road can be the difference between a safe maneuver away from danger and a serious or fatal car crash.

Texting while driving is illegal in many states including California, but that does not stop everyone from texting. In fact, state laws prohibiting texting while driving seem to have had very little impact on the distracted driving accident rate nationwide. Reachers are continuing to look at different ways to discourage the behavior by understanding the root of why we choose to do it and what makes texting more or less likely.

Even with laws, cell phones are tempting to California drivers

California is one of a few states that has a law which goes beyond just prohibiting texting and driving. In addition to forbidding instant messaging, checking email and searching online, the law of this state also prohibits drivers even from making conventional phone calls with a handheld device like a smartphone. However, even under the threat of fines, many drivers in this state still cannot resist the occasional phone call or quick check of a text message, even though they are driving. According to one report, Californians typically spend between 16 and 18 percent of their total driving time on their phones.

This means that an average driver is spending about 11 or so minutes per hour multitasking by trying to both drive and use a phone. Of course, multitasking, particularly when it involves taking one’s eyes off the road and hands off the wheel, is never a good idea and can lead to very serious car accidents.

While certainly fines help, judging by the statistics, they are simply not enough to stop all instances of distracted driving. There are a number of things that people can do to prevent texting and driving and the like, but perhaps, one of the best ways of sending a message is to hold a distracted driver fully accountable should he cause an accident.

In order to do so, a victim will need to file a personal injury cause of action alleging that the driver responsible for the accident was negligent. As part of that case, the victim may ask for reimbursement for medical bills and lost wages, as well as for non-economic damages like pain and suffering.


LATimes.com, “Males downplay risk of texting and driving, study says,” Monte Morin, Oct. 11, 2013

Forbes, “Snapchat And Other Phone Apps Could Be More Dangerous Than Texting For Teen Drivers,” Cheryl Jensen, Aug. 17, 2016

Huffington Post, “10 Statistics That Capture The Dangers of Texting and Driving,” Erin Schumaker, June 8, 2015