Injury Law Blog

Study: The real smartphone danger for drivers may be apps

For a long time we at Cutter Law have been issuing warnings about the dangers of texting while driving. But a new study suggests that another smartphone activity is replacing texting as the deadliest behavior – using apps.

The organization is SADD – Students Against Destructive Decisions, in collaboration with Liberty Mutual Insurance. The apps cited in the survey include music apps and navigational (GPS) apps.

The study, titled asked students to rate warnings against what they actually believed:

Almost all teens acknowledge[d] app usage as a danger behind the wheel (95 percent). However, when presented with a visual of an app notification appearing on a smartphone during implicit association testing, it was revealed that approximately 80 percent of teens fundamentally view app use while driving as “not distracting.”

Driven by false security

Basically, teen drivers know that texting and app usage are frowned on, but in their hearts they feel believe that listening to music while they drive or checking on the location of a destination while driving is safe and not a stressor or distraction behind the wheel.

The SADD study supposes that teens consider navigation and music apps on their phones as indispensable “utilities” – and since they are necessary to well-being they can’t pose any serious danger.

Teens are far from the only offenders, of course. We have all seen adults driving with their phones at the ready. This study focuses on teens because teens are their constituency. In their minds it is more important, at that moment, to check on their Facebook messages than be concerned about the safety of others on the road.

The study suggests two basic tactics for people to remind themselves that they are in denial about safety and smartphones:

  • Hide the phone. If the phone is in the trunk of the car, it won’t kill anyone.
  • Map your trip out in advance. Know how to get where you’re going before you step on the gas.