Auto Accidents and Cell Phones

Today, let’s take a look at the relationship between auto accidents and cell phones.

"If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver who is not using a cell phone," University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer told Live Science. "It's like instantly aging a large number of drivers.”
Strayer headed a university study that was published in the journal Human Factors (winter issue, 2005). According to the research, cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States each year.

Strayer’s study found that:

- Drivers talking on cell phones are 18 percent slower in reacting to brake lights.

- Driver talking on cell phones also take 17 percent longer to regain speed after they brake.

"Once drivers on cell phones hit the brakes, it takes them longer to get back into the normal flow of traffic," Strayer said. "The net result is they are impeding the overall flow of traffic."

Strayer found that even hands-free cell phones distract drivers. The drivers may not be holding the phone, but they’re still distracted by the conversations. In a previous study, Strayer found that drivers talking on cell phones are even more impaired that drunk drivers with blood alcohol levels over 0.08.

A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Australia found that motorists using cell phones while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves or others. The study also found that the risk of injury was the same for hand-held phones and hands-free phones.

An April 2006 Naturalistic Driving study by Virginia Tech and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that nearly 80 percent of auto accidents involve some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the accident. The most common distraction is cell phones, followed by drowsiness. Other distractions, such as lunging for a falling cup, might increase the risk for an accident even more; however, such distractions are not nearly as common as cell phone use.

As of today, six states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah, and Washington) and the District of Columbia have laws that ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

Driving while texting (DWT) is even more distracting and dangerous than talking on a cell phone. Alarmingly, one study conducted by an insurance company found that at least 20 percent of drivers are texting while driving. As of now, texting while driving has been banned in ten states (Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia and Washington) and the District of Columbia.

Georgia has not yet placed any bans or restrictions on cell phone use behind the wheel. But even though it’s not illegal, distracted drivers (and companies that allow cell phone use in vehicles) can still be held accountable for accidents. In 2007, International Paper Company paid a $5.2 million settlement to a Georgia woman who was rear-ended by one of their employees talking on a company cell phone at the time of the wreck. In this case, the company actually had a policy requiring the use of hands-free cell phones while driving, and the employee was not following the policy, but the company agreed to pay the settlement anyway.

If you’re injured in an accident caused by someone who’s driving while texting, talking on a cell phone, or otherwise distracted, it’s important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible so that your attorney can collect relevant evidence because it disappears. Call (404) 531-9700 to schedule your free consultation at MLN Law.