Is New Technology Making Distracted Driving a Bigger Problem?

Is New Technology Making Distracted Driving A Bigger Problem
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Ever since there have been cars on the road, distracted driving has been an issue. But the data is clear: It’s a bigger problem now than it’s ever been. And with so much safety technology being integrated into vehicles by auto manufacturers, it begs the question: Is technology hurting or helping the issue of distracted driving? Let’s dig into the numbers and trends to find out more.

Distracted Driving: A Look at the Numbers

In 2010, when smartphones and related technology were still relatively young, there were 900,000 distracted driving accidents. Fast forward to 2015, and that number had actually dropped slightly to 885,000 accidents. But something happened between then and now – there are now roughly 986,000 distracted driving accidents per year or roughly one every 30 seconds. Despite technology improving, it appears that it’s becoming an even bigger source of accidents.

In a January 2021 study, 40 to 55 percent of people admitted to engaging with their smartphones while driving, which is a 13.7 percent year-over-year increase. But that’s just one factor. In-vehicle technology like infotainment systems, touch screen navigation, and other bells and whistles all increase the risk of being involved in an accident. And even using a hands-free system to talk on the phone is dangerous. The National Safety Council warns drivers that talking on the phone causes them to miss roughly 50 percent of what’s happening around them.

Phone is the problem

While talking on the phone is problematic, it’s the distractions that take your eyes off the road that are even more problematic. Let’s say, for example, that you need to quickly check an email on your phone while driving down the interstate. While taking your eyes off the road for five seconds might not seem like a very big deal, did you know that your vehicle will cover the distance of an entire football field in that timeframe? (And that’s just if you’re going 55 miles per hour. If you’re going 75 miles per hour, it only takes three seconds.) In other words, no distraction is a good distraction. It only takes a quick glance away from the road to cause a lifetime of pain and damage.

While younger drivers might be more likely to be distracted by their smartphones, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that assistive technology in vehicles may actually contribute to a higher rate of car accidents in older drivers. This is likely due to the fact that older drivers are less comfortable using this technology and more likely to be distracted by performing basic functions that aren’t intuitive to them.

The Problem With Technology

The biggest problem with technology is that it creates a sense of urgency. We now live in a fully connected world where real-time communication compels real-time responses. Waiting 15 minutes to arrive at your destination and check your text messages no longer feels adequate when others expect quick responses. The ringing, dinging, and buzzing of notifications take focus away from the road and increase the propensity for collisions. Even your own vehicle, with electronic features, dashboards, and slick notifications, can drain your focus and cause you to focus on everything other than the road. No matter how good your intentions may be, it seems like everything is working against you.

As any good car accident attorney will tell you, technology has become a serious sticking point in car accidents and insurance settlements. Whether you were the one who caused the accident or you were simply the victim, the presence of technology can play a significant role in your case.


The Problem With Technology

For example, let’s say you’re driving down the interstate, and you get a text message. You reach for your phone and quickly start responding to the message with one hand while holding the steering wheel with the other. Your eyes dart between the screen and the road – back and forth, back and forth. You hit send, and both hands return to the wheel. You never swerved or did anything dangerous. But then, seconds later, a vehicle in the lane next to you crosses six inches over the line into your lane and sideswipes your vehicle. It forces you to swerve, and the next thing you know, your vehicle is in a ditch, and you have several broken bones.

In a situation like this, you’re not in the wrong. The other vehicle came into your lane, swiped your vehicle, and caused you to wreck into a ditch. Their insurance company will be forced to pay a settlement to cover your damages, medical bills, pain, suffering, etc. Or will they?

New Technology Making Distracted Driving a Bigger Problem

During the course of investigating the accident, their insurance company decides they want to make you appear like a distracted driver. In other words, they want to make it appear like you’re the one at fault. So they pull your phone records and find that you send a text message within seconds of the accident occurring. And because the initial collision occurred on the side of the vehicle, they claim that you swerved into the other driver’s lane and caused the accident. Suddenly, you’re the one in the wrong – even though you didn’t technically cause the crash.

Do you see the problem? Even when technology isn’t distracting you, it opens you up to consequences that you should never have to face. If you want to remain focused on the road and avoid exposing yourself and others to unnecessary risk, it starts with creating a distraction-free zone in your vehicle.

This means keeping technology out of reach, silencing notifications, and learning how to properly operate your vehicle’s technology when you’re not behind the wheel. For example, learn how to use the navigation system when you’re sitting in a parking lot – not when you’re driving 75 miles per hour down the interstate.

Technology to the Rescue?

We’re not saying all technology is bad. Backup cameras, lane-assist technology, blindspot monitoring, and advanced airbags are all positive things. However, until we figure out a way to neutralize distractions like texting and talking while driving, technology will remain a risk to roadway safety.

Thank you for reading!