It’s a sight we see far too often. A driver is driving erratically, taking too long to take off from stoplights, and generally exhibiting signs of driving under the influence. While that may have been the conclusion to come to in years gone by, today there is another culprit causing such behaviour – the Smart phone. In fact a study conducted in the United Kingdom has shown that driving while talking on a Smart phone or other similar device is actually more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol.

The study was conducted by road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), and concluded that reaction times for drivers who were using Smart phones, Blackberries, or other hand-held communications or gaming devices was nearly 40% slower than normal. The study further revealed that:

  • Hands-free mobile phone conversation slows reaction times by 26.5 per cent;
  • Cannabis slows reaction times by 21 per cent;
  • Alcohol (above UK driving limit but below 100mg per 100ml of blood) slows reaction time by between six and 15 per cent; and
  • Alcohol at the legal limit slows reaction times by 12.5 per cent.

Further studies conducted in the United States, one in particular by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that novice teen drivers were 8 times more likely to crash or have a near miss when dialling a cell phone; 7-8 times more likely when reaching for a phone or other object; almost 4 times more likely when texting; while experienced adults were more than twice as likely to crash or have a near miss when dialling a cell phone.

Further statistics from the University of Utah, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that:

  • Talking on a cell phone while driving can make a young driver’s reaction time as slow as that of a 70-year-old.
  • 40% of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.
  • Each year, 21% of fatal car crashes involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage
  • A driver reaching for a cell phone or any other electronic device is 1.4 times more likely to experience a car crash.
  • A car driver talking on their phone is 1.3 times more likely to get into an accident.
  • A truck driver texting while driving is 23.2 times more likely to get into an accident than a trucker paying full attention to the road.

Tips for Driving Safely
Such figures are alarming, and additionally, they can affect insurance rates, particularly if you’re involved in an accident caused by using a Smart phone or other hand-held communications device. Worse, they can result in death or serious injury to you or others. In order to avoid being distracted while driving;

  • Keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road
  • Let your voicemail handle calls
  • If you need to use your cell phone or other device, pull over in a safe spot and answer or make your call
  • If you have a passenger, let them make the call, answer it, or send the text message

Most insurance companies offer discounts to drivers with good safety records. Furthermore, practicing safe driving habits and limiting distractions can save you, your family, friends, and other drivers from serious injury or even death.