Distracting smartphones and their role in fatal car accidents

Smartphones are potentially lethal distractions to drivers.

As long as there have been drivers, there have been distracted drivers. Back in the "old days," distractions were simpler than are today, but they still existed. Driving while eating, drinking, reading a book/paper/map, changing the radio station, having a lively conversation with passengers or personal grooming have been prevalent for years.

These days, the most dangerous distractions are high tech in nature. No matter where we are, as long as we have either cell service or wireless internet, we can call friends, send text messages, check email, update social networks or use apps with our smartphones.

When we use our smartphones in the privacy and safety of our own homes or businesses, there's very little potential for harm. If we use them behind the wheel, however, catastrophe can result.

Are millennials the most dangerous generation of drivers?

The so-called millennial generation (people under the age of 24 right now) is more likely than any other to engage in high-risk driving behaviors. An American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety poll released in the spring of 2017 revealed the true extent of these bad driving choices. A whopping 85 percent of younger drivers admitted that they, in the 30 days prior to answering the survey:

  • Sped
  • Drove recklessly
  • Drove while distracted
  • Ran red lights or traffic signals

Obviously, any unsafe driving could potentially cause an accident, but electronic distractions are particularly invasive.

Why is texting so hazardous?

Text messaging and using apps to take and share behind-the-wheel selfies (think of Instagram and Snapchat, the two most popular mobile applications for this purpose) are all-encompassing distractions. Specifically, they comprise three distinct levels of distraction. These are:

  • Manual - the driver's hands come off the wheel to pick up the phone, turn it on via a pass code or swipe, open an app or the messaging program, and post a picture or type a message
  • Visual - the driver must take his or her eyes off the road to look at the phone's screen to read incoming messages or posts, review responses or evaluate whether pictures are flattering enough to share with others
  • Cognitive - thinking about the text conversation or an anticipated reply pulls attention away from the road ahead, resulting in a condition known as "inattentional blindness;" psychologists define this phenomenon as being unable to recognize a conspicuous object directly in our sights because our brain's processing ability is otherwise engaged

No matter how careful you are as a driver, the simple fact remains is that there are countless other people on the road who aren't as conscientious. Injury-causing and fatal accidents happen multiple times a day. If you or someone you love is hurt following a crash, contact a skilled personal injury attorney at the Tennessee law firm of Pryor, Priest, and Harber. Call their office at 865-223-6303, or contact them online.