Over the past several years, there have been a number of studies that have discussed the dangers of using cellphones while behind the wheel. However, a recent study has found that the most dangerous aspect of using a cellphone while driving is dialing a number, rather than talking on the phone itself.
The study, which was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tracked the driving habits of 109 experienced drivers (average of 20 years driving experience) and 42 young drivers that had just been issued their licenses. To keep tabs on the participants over the 18-month period of the study, researchers installed several devices in the participants’ vehicles, such as lane trackers, cameras, GPS devices and accelerometers.
During the study, the participants were involved in a total of 73 car accidents and 612 near-misses. For the purposes of the study, a “near-miss” was defined as a situation caused by the participant (i.e. by engaging in a distracting activity) where a last-minute maneuver was required to avoid an accident.
Researchers observed that the participating drivers engaged in several types of distracting activities over the course of the study. For each activity, researchers calculated the number of near-misses and car accidents that happened because of their distracted driving. From this number, they extrapolated how much each distracting activity increased the likelihood of being in a collision or near-miss.
Once the calculations were completed, it was found that each type of distracted activity affected the younger and experienced driver groups differently. Surprisingly, the only activity that significantly increased the risk of collisions and near-misses for both driver groups was dialing a number on a cellphone.
The researchers found that engaging this activity alone increased the risk of a car accident or near-miss among the experienced driver group by 2.49 times. Unsurprisingly, this activity was more effective as a distraction among the younger drivers, as it increased the risk of an adverse event by 8.32 times.
What is perhaps the most surprising result of the study is that the researchers determined that dialing a number was the only distracting activity that significantly increased the risk of an accident or near-miss among the older group. This indicated that experienced drivers are better able to “tune out” most distractions and focus on the task of driving. Not surprisingly, the research confirmed that the attention of younger drivers was significantly sapped by several types of distractions such as reaching for objects, eating or drinking, or viewing objects on the side of the road.
The California Legislature has responded to the propensity of younger drivers to be more easily distracted, by banning novice drivers from using hand-held cellphones or texting while behind the wheel. The same ban also applies to drivers of all ages. However, despite the law’s best intentions, many drivers choose to stay connected, putting others at risk in the process.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to damages under California law. The Cartwright Law Firm can advise you of the merits of your claim and work to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your losses. Call today for a free consultation with a highly-experienced attorney.