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Safety Tip: Using a “Smart”-Phone While Driving is Dumb

As a personal injury attorney for the past 30 years, I have seen auto accidents caused by a variety of factors. Unfortunately, as many drivers now use smart phones to talk and text while driving,  smart phone use has become a large cause of automobile crashes and has led to in an increase in automobile accidents. The statistics are frightening: texting alone causes over 23%-or 1,600,000-accidents a year. Recognizing the danger posed by texting, the Virginia legislature recently made texting while driving a primary offense, which carries a fine of $125 for first-time offenders, a $250 for subsequent offenses.  (Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-1078.1).

According to AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, you are 23 times more likely to be involved in an auto accident while texting. Texting takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. To put that into perspective, if you are traveling 55MPH, you will cover the length of a football field in 5 seconds.

In addition to the statistics, we have all seen the results of a driver who is texting or talking on a smart phone-they are the ones driving unnecessarily slow in their lane and who sit at a traffic light after it has turned from red to green or the ones weaving within their lane.

While many may believe that that voice-to-text and other hands-free methods are safer, that assumption is false.

A recent study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute concluded that voice texting is not a safer alternative to manual texting while driving. Study results found that:

  • Regardless of which texting method was used, driver response times were significantly delayed. “In each case drivers took about twice as long to react as they did when they weren’t texting.” Slower reaction times negatively impact driver response time to sudden roadway hazards such as a pedestrian crossing, or a four-way intersection.
  • While using either texting method, drivers spent significantly less time concentrating on the road.

A similar study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that using hands-free options could be just as dangerous. Devices analyzed in the study include hands-free GPS, voice-to-text texting, e-mail services, and other voice activated services. The study ranked the level of cognitive distraction these devices pose and found that using a cell phone, even if hands-free, posed a moderate distraction, the use of voice- activated texting or e-mail posed the greatest amount of distraction, and listening to the radio caused the least distraction.

The reason for the increase in accidents and the dangers posed by the use of a smart phone while driving is simple and cannot be altered: driving requires focus and attention at ALL times and using a smart phone significantly distracts a driver’s focus and attention from the very serious life-or-death task of driving. To all our clients, friends, and families, no phone call or text message is worth a life. Please, put the phone on mute, put it down, focus on your driving, and arrive safely into the arms of your loved ones.

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