A fatal combination

A new, dangerous trend in driving is increasing auto accidents: cell phones, texting, apps, and driving. All lead to driver inattention and accidents.

New York State Troopers’ records show that “driver attention/distraction” crashes have increased steadily going from 35,546 accidents in 2006 to 49,833 in 2010. Highway fatalities in the US increased 10 % from 2015 to 2016. Although there has been no definitive study linking the use of cell phones to an increased accident rate, there appears to be a general consensus in the insurance, automotive, and police sectors that the use of cell phones is a cause.

It is well accepted that talking on a cell phone can distract a driver. Unsafe use of the phone, including texting and using apps, is prohibited in New York. For example, a driver can lose his concentration on driving by turning his eyes from the road to his cell phone for only a few seconds. If a driver takes away his focus from the road for a only five seconds while travelling at 55 mph, the driver would have covered a football field length of road.

A vehicle operator will be at fault for an accident where a cell phone is in use. The police report will  categorize the driver as being “inattentive” or “distracted.” We have had some cases where the defendant-operator was distracted while using a cell phone. In one case, an elderly pedestrian was very seriously injured from being struck by an SUV. The vehicle’s operator was chatting away on the phone. Her insurance company conceded liability without a protest.

Here are some safe driving tips:

  • Make your passenger the “designated cell phone” person. He can receive and make your calls. Also, he can use the cell phone’s map to navigate the trip.
  • If you are driving solo, turn-off the cell phone. Check it at stops, i.e., stops where you are parked. Pull-over when it rings or pings. If you are on a long drive, make periodic stops. Do not be fooled into thinking that you will not be distracted and that you can juggle the demands of the wheel and the cell phone at the same time.
  • Install a GPS map system in your car’s dashboard. It will “speak” the directions to you. It will be less distracting than looking at a cell phone. Also, you will be glancing at the dashboard rather than looking down at a cell phone on your lap.

Cell phones, texting, and apps do not go together with driving. It’s a fatal brew.