Can Social Media Kill You? Distracted Driving and Social Media…

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Can Social Media Kill You? Distracted Driving and Social Media...

Distracted driving isn’t a new problem in the United States. You’re supposed to keep your eyes on the road while you’re driving; you shouldn’t eat or drink, fidget with the radio, apply makeup or use your phone. While many states have enacted laws that prohibit the use of cell phones while driving, not all drivers adhere to the rules.

According to research from AT&T, it’s not just texting and calling that take a driver’s eyes off the road, it’s also social media. Nearly 40% of smartphone users are tapping into social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, while they are driving, and some drivers are surfing the net. And 10% of motorists are video chatting.

THE DISTRACTED DRIVING PROBLEM BY THE NUMBERS

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016, 3,450 people were killed, and in 2015, 391,000 were injured in automobile accidents involving distracted driving. It’s estimated that over 480,000 drivers use cell phones while driving. Daily, about 10 people die from distracted driving, and over 1,000 are injured.

The New York Law Journal reports that some experts believe the figures don’t accurately represent the problem. The data relies on self-reports and police reports. Many times, people don’t admit that they were distracted because they were using an electronic device.

According to the CDC, drivers under the age of 20 are more likely to be involved in a distraction-related crash. Teens who text and drive are more likely to be involved in other risky behavior in the car, such as not wearing a seatbelt or drinking and driving.

WHY IS SOCIAL MEDIA SO DISTRACTING?

The Centers for Disease Control lists three types of distracted driving:

  • Visual – when you take your eyes off the road
  • Manual – when you take your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive – when you take your mind off driving

Using your phone involves all three types of distracted driving. Your eyes aren’t watching the road, your hands are on your device and your mind is on what you’re trying to post. Posting a picture is especially hazardous because you are distracted while you’re taking the picture, and you’re distracted again while posting.

SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT

Texting might be the worst distraction while you’re driving, but other apps contribute to the problem. Search social media for #whiledriving and the number of posts that appear might astound you. Erie Insurance used data from social media to analyze which states had the most posts #whiledriving. California topped the list, with Florida, Texas and South Carolina coming in next. Most of the pictures also included #clouds, #sunset, #sky or #nature. It’s become very popular to post pictures while you’re driving.

Researchers from Purdue University suggest that the game Pokemon Go (popular game from 2018) might be responsible for over 100,000 accidents. The likelihood of an accident occurring within 330 feet of a Pokestop was over 25% higher than locations without a Pokestop.

The AT&T research found that drivers are shooting videos, snapping selfies and using Snapchat and Instagram while driving. Over one-third of the respondents admitted to keeping their phone within reach while they were driving. Of the 12 percent who admitted shooting videos behind the wheel, 27% of them believe they can safely drive and shoot pictures while driving.

If you’re driving 60 mph, in one second, you travel 88 feet. In just four seconds, you travel the length of a football field. But many accidents occur at much slower speeds.

PREVENTION IS KEY

In much of the research cited above, the reasons drivers used social media while driving was generally due to either an addiction or habit. While many drivers realize that they shouldn’t text and drive, that doesn’t mean they took that advice. AAA found that almost 45% of drivers read a text message while driving, and another 35% sent a text while driving, even though 98% of the drivers recognized texting while driving as a serious threat.  

Talking (just talking) on your cell phone reduces your reaction time by a staggering amount. Trying to operate an app or use the keyboard can reduce your reaction time even more. The solution to distracted driving is to focus on your driving; put the cell phone down when you’re in the car.

Texting while driving is illegal in Pennsylvania, but talking on a cell phone is not. Limit your conversation when driving so that you can keep your eyes on the road. These types of distractions originate in the peripheral vision. It’s not that you won’t see someone coming down the road in front of you. it’s the person who enters the crosswalk or the child who is playing on the side of the road and darts out.

Commit to distraction-free driving. The NHTSA recommends taking these three pledges:

  • “Protect lives by never texting or talking on the phone while driving.”
  • “Be a good passenger and speak out when a driver in the car is distracted.”
  • “Encourage friends and family to drive phone-free; keep the phone off or in the back seat.”

Many tech innovators are working on solutions to the problem of using social media while driving, but the best solution is simply to hang up. Keep your phone off when you’re in the car. Remember that the consequence of distracted driving could be deadly.

If you have been injured in a Lehigh Valley car accident, we encourage you to contact Scherline & Associates.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. If you need advice on specific legal issues, please consult with a licensed Personal Injury attorney.

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