By: Paul D. Doyle
According to the Center for Public Safety at Northwestern University, 90% of vehicle accidents aren’t accidents at all. They are crashes. The word accident implies that they are unavoidable acts of fate. According to Northwestern, most crashes are avoidable, and some form of driver error may be a factor in these crashes. One of the largest factors that affects crash avoidance is driver distraction.
This statistic from Northwestern University is from 2008 when most of us carried Blackberrys and flip phones. The first iPhone was released just one year earlier. It had a 3.5” screen and a handful of applications. Fast forward to 2023, the iPhone 15 Pro has a 6.7” screen and thousands of applications.
In 2008, we primarily used our cellphones for speaking. In 2023, we also use them for email, instant messaging, video messaging, music, and games. The beeps, chimes, and popups indicating messages are non-stop; because of this we are more distracted now than we have ever been.
While driving it is not uncommon to encounter drivers with their heads down, texting. There are drivers that fail to proceed when a traffic light turns green, because they are looking down, not up. I’ve even witnessed another driver wearing two pairs of glasses, sunglasses for driving, and reading glasses for, you can guess.
Studies by the Center for Public Safety at Northwestern University and others show that the perception and reaction time of motorists under daylight conditions is in the range of 1.5 seconds. It will take a distracted driver much longer to perceive the hazard, and therefore longer to react. To appreciate the delay in reacting to a hazard while driving at 50 mph, you are traveling 74 feet per second. Taking your eyes off the road for only one second can have a deadly impact on your wellbeing. If you are looking at a screen, you can’t see and react to the hazard on the road.
Cell phone records have become an important tool for accident investigators. Time, date, and duration information on cell phone records can indicate that a driver was on their phone at the time of the accident. Similarly, time stamps on text messages can indicate that a driver was reading or typing rather than watching the road.
We can all limit our distractions by using “driving mode” on our phones. iPhones and Android phones both offer driving modes. They allow you to do the following:
- Limit the notifications that will pop up while you are driving.
- Block incoming calls unless your phone is connected to Bluetooth.
- Have your text messages read to you.
- Speak a response, or have an automatic reply sent indicating that you are driving and will return the message when you arrive at your destination.
Below are links on how to enable driving mode on your device:
The modern vehicles today include driver assistance packages that aid in alerting a distracted driver that they are approaching a hazardous situation. Therefore, an accident investigation should consider the incident situation, the driver, and the vehicle.
Contact CESI if you are in need of an accident reconstruction expert. We can assist you in determining whether distracted driving was a cause or factor in a crash.