Are Cell Phones Causing a Distracted Driving Epidemic?

We see the same story in the news almost on a daily basis now;  another traffic accident caused by distracted driving. More specifically, increasing numbers of drivers and passengers are being injured or killed due to someone driving while texting or talking on cell phones. Why is it so difficult for some to put away their cell phones while driving?

Smartphones have become an integral part of our daily lives.  The number of smartphones in use rose dramatically from 21% of Americans in 2011 to 46% in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center (webmd.com). With this increase and consistency of smartphone use, Americans are seemingly becoming dependent on their devices to communicate, entertain, and even organize their personal affairs and daily routines. In fact, many experts have come to the conclusion that smartphone use has become an obsession, compulsion, or even an addiction for some people.

Of course, a larger number of smartphones in use (and the need to stay connected) means a greater instance of smartphone abuse. The majority of the time the abuse is merely an annoyance or an inconvenience;  people talking on their phones at the restaurant, texters who walk around with their heads down, not watching where they are going. Unfortunately, smartphone abuse does not end there.

The number of drivers distracted by smartphones on American roads is disturbing.  As many as 660,000 Americans may be driving while distracted at any time during a typical day (edgarsnyder.com).   With so many Americans driving while distracted, it shouldn’t be too surprising that 330,000 injuries occur yearly, a result of 1.6 million distracted driving crashes; and these numbers continue to rise every year.

Teens Driving While Distracted:

Distracted driving numbers for teen drivers are even more staggering: In 2013, 21% of teenage driving fatalities were caused by smartphone distraction. Teens are four times more likely to be involved in distracted driving crashes or near-crashes.

Whether it is a teen or an adult, distracted drivers have made our roadways less safe for all of us.  As responsible drivers, it is our duty to keep our eyes, and our attention focused on the road ahead. At 55 miles per hour, a vehicle travels 100 yards in the 5 seconds it takes for you to simply look down at a text; making it nearly impossible to react in time to avoid an unforeseen circumstance such as a deer in the middle of the road.

If you’ve gotten into the habit of constantly checking your phone when you’ve gotten an alert, try making an effort to store your phone in an unreachable place while driving until you have arrived at your destination so the temptation to check it is gone. It is also advised to pre-set your GPS or navigational system prior to departing for your trip to avoid the need to do so while driving. Pre-setting your desired radio station or asking a passenger to operate the radio controls is also recommended when behind the wheel.

Whether we see it as an epidemic or not, the death and injury numbers associated with distracted driving caused by smartphone use are sobering. Our lives can be so full of pitfalls and dangers, doesn’t it make sense to eliminate such an obvious distraction where you can?  Be considerate to yourselves, your families, and the drivers around you by not driving distracted.  No call, text, tweet, or Facebook post is worth a life.

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