How often does cell phone use result in car accidents? Drivers in Southern California are prohibited from using handheld phones to talk or text—or to perform other functions on their smartphones—while they are driving. However, motorists continue to use their phones when they are behind the wheel. While an article in the Sacramento Bee reported a statewide drop in handheld cell phone use after state law banned handheld phones for drivers, about 4 percent of California drivers still admit to using their phones to talk, text, look at apps, surf the internet, or use the GPS function on their phones despite the law.
According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) and discussed in a Forbes article, while the overall rate of handheld cellphone use for talking has declined, more drivers are using their phones than ever before for texting, sending emails, and other purposes that are much more dangerous than talking when it comes to causing fatal car crashes.
More Drivers Are Using Their Phones in More Dangerous Ways
The study shows that, even though use of smartphones while driving may have decreased, especially when it comes to handheld cell phone use for talking, more drivers are using their smartphones in ways that are particularly distracting and dangerous. To be sure, it is distracting to hold a cell phone for talking while driving. The motorist cannot keep both of his or her hands on the wheel, and the conversation may prevent the driver from keeping his or her mind on the task of driving. Yet other uses of cell phones are even more distracting. Most notably, sending or reading texts, sending or reading emails, and using apps while driving can take a person’s hands, mind, and eyes off the task of driving.
There are three different large-scale kinds of distractions behind the wheel, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Visual distraction, which involves a driver taking her eyes off the road;
- Manual distraction, which refers to a driver taking her hands off the wheel; and
- Cognitive distraction, which occurs when a driver takes her mind off the task of driving (even if her eyes are on the road and her hands are on the wheel).
Car Accident Risks Are Higher When a Driver is Using a Phone for Activities Other Than Talking
Using a smartphone for texting, emailing, or any other related task typically involves all three types of distractions. According to David Kidd, one of the co-authors of the study and an HLDI research scientist, “the latest data suggest that drivers are using their phones in riskier ways.” To be clear, the study did not show an increase in overall rates of distracted driving, but rather an increase in more dangerous uses of smartphones behind the wheel.
The risk of a car accident increases when a driver is using a handheld cell phone for talking, yet that accident risk increases significantly when the driver is manipulating the phone—through, e.g., texting or emailing—in ways that are more distracting. Citing the IIHS and HLDI study, the Forbes article indicates that “fatal crash risk is 66 percent higher when controlling a phone” as opposed to talking on it.
Learn More By Contacting a Riverside Car Accident Attorney