Smartphone apps becoming equal danger to texting while behind the wheel

We all know that the use of cellphones while behind the wheel is a dangerous distraction that causes many serious car accidents in Louisiana every year. Changes in electronic and communication technology over the last decade have created an unprecedented distracted driving danger — longer periods of distraction. As research shows the importance of texting ban laws, our focus on distracted driving will likely have to expand to cell phone applications as more and more people purchase and use smartphones when driving.

It is difficult and dangerous to check an address on Google Maps while behind the wheel but people continue to do it. Like texting while driving, the use of smartphone applications behind the wheel has traffic safety officials and law enforcement officials concerned. Recent research shows that smartphone application use while driving may rival texting behind the wheel and many of the people who use smartphones behind the wheel are young drivers.

According to a recent survey that measured the driving habits of college students a significant number of college-age drivers are using mobile phone apps as they drive down the road. Around 35 percent of the surveyed students admitted that they used smartphone apps while driving and around 10 percent admitted to using smartphone apps every time they drive. According to a different, earlier survey that measured smartphone application use on the road, about 25 percent of smartphone users who download apps, use them while driving. As a result, cell phone application use may be the new target of distracted driving laws in the future.

It is estimated that around 20 percent of car accidents are caused by distracted driving. Before cell phones were a daily fact of life, distracted driving existed but the use of cell phones while driving represents a more dangerous form of distracted driving. Texting, talking on a handheld and using smartphone apps while in the driver’s seat are more dangerous activities because the activities use the focus of the driver to manipulate the device. Texting and using smartphone applications uniquely take the driver’s hands and eyes off of the wheel and road. Texting may have to move over as the new kid on the distracted driving block.

Source: Dayton Daily News, “Phone apps distracting more young drivers, report says,” Cornelius Frolik, 8/1/11

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