According to a poll by The US Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports, 63 percent of people under 30 acknowledged driving while using a handheld phone and 30 percent said they have sent text messages while behind the wheel. A total of nearly 5,500 people in the United States were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2009.
Although I am a personal injury attorney, and accustomed to the horrors stemming from car accidents, these are staggering numbers. However, I’m convinced that distracted driving has become an even greater problem with the rampant use of smartphones and an increased number of young drivers wielding them – especially with the plethora of apps available. The main problem is that “science hasn’t caught up to looking at the effects that mobile app usage can have behind the wheel of a car," says researcher Lauren McCartney.
Apple alone has more than 425,000 apps.So it comes as no surprise that the University of Alabama Youth Safety Lab found use of popular cell phone apps pose an even greater risk to young drivers. Additionally, the speed of these 3G devices undoubtedly makes internet and app use while on the move an ever-growing temptation for America’s young people. And incidents of distracted driving are sure to continue on an upward trend as the phones and apps alike become more affordable. Douglas Mcintyre, reporting for Aol’s Daily Finance, found a recent report by Comscore which stated that "74.6 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in April 2011, up 13 percent from the three-month period ending in January 2011."
Another major problem is the fact that apps primarily cater to the more tech-savvy generation of young drivers. This is a particular danger because in many cases they are fairly inexperienced drivers, which in itself makes them more accident prone. Factor in the distraction of friends and other passengers and cell phone use and one has a recipe for disaster. Young drivers, it seems, may just not be psychologically ready to follow the rules of the road.
Fortunately, the Department of Transportation is already looking into ways to address this issue. Along with the release of their poll results, they also released a free guide for parents and educators called “Distracted Driving Shatters Lives.” The pamphlet is available at http://Distraction.govandhttp://www.consumerreports.org/distracted.Copies are also being distributed to schools and volunteer groups by the National School Safety Coalition. I advise everyone to at least peruse a copy. Jim Guest, the president of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher ofConsumer Reports, said it best, “It only takes a moment of distraction to cause a tragedy.”
Often, we think of a moment of distraction as changing the radio station, day dreaming or talking on the cell phone. Although each of these can cause enough distraction to result in a tragedy, becoming distracted by a mobile application is far more serious. These applications require a person to focus their mind on something other than driving for an extended period of time. Simply put, the use of these apps take far more than a moment.There can be no doubt that this looks to be a significant issue for sometime to come. We will certainly end up seeing young peoplewho have kiiled theirfriends or another innocent personspeaking at schools as part of their community service against driving and using mobile devices.