It’s old news that texting and driving is a bad idea. It’s also rapidly becoming illegal in many states to drive with a phone in your hand at all. However, while it’s known that using a phone in a car is risky, there aren’t easy answers as to what methods are best for mitigating those risks, and scientists are still pursuing plenty of questions about how people really behave — and drive — when it comes to phones in cars. Read on to get a breakdown of what the science says about phone use in cars, and learn how to best equip yourself to be a cautious, aware, and focused driver.
What do we know so far about phone use in cars?
“Distracted driving” means doing anything that takes either hand off the wheel, or the eyes off the road and mirrors. There’s a good reason a number of authoritative organizations are strict about this definition — science backs up that humans consistently respond more slowly if they’re multitasking at all. However, studies have shown that while people are increasingly using phones in cars, accident rates are not generally higher.
Scientists have investigated what dangers phone use really poses, and especially how accident results differ between drivers who cautiously manage their phone use and those who don’t. Check out this roundup of data points for a fresh perspective on the realities of phones in cars.
- There’s no way to be truly “safe” when using a phone in the car. An analysis of traffic accidents in British Columbia concluded that cell phone use by drivers increased the odds of a crash by 70% compared with drivers who didn’t.
- That’s really significant, because around 85% of Americans use their phone while driving. Almost half of drivers in the study admitted having a hazardous situation while using a phone in the prior six months, with the most common of these being a lapse in attending to traffic.
- Interestingly, traffic accidents overall haven’t increased in the US with the increase in phone usage. So what’s making up the difference? Newer research suggests that people who are comfortable using their phones in cars may just be more risky drivers anyway. Another study in one area found that they were less likely to use seatbelts, as well. On the flip side, drivers who practice good habits like saying no to phone use not only reduce primary dangers from distraction with phone use itself, but also secondary ones like searching for a phone in a pocket, cup holder, console, or purse, and tend to prevent other avoidable distractions as well.
- However, the fact remains that 85% of people use their phones in their cars, 1 in 10 of them for over 15 minutes a day, and this is not likely to change anytime soon. Because of this, it’s vital to know how best to manage some inevitable multitasking. One study showed that drivers drifted more when using manual controls than when using voice controls. In another study, drivers who used hands-free devices were more likely to use their phone less or not at all compared with those who didn’t, so that helps stop the problem at its roots.
So what’s the best way to make myself a more focused, aware, and efficient driver?
At the end of the day, the important thing is to use your phone in the car as little as possible — but since nearly all of us make exceptions, it’s important to use tools like car phone mounts, voice-to-text software, and apps to our advantage, so that we can reduce risks associated with phone use in cars. Stay tuned for our next safety installment for more detailed ways to reduce risks!