Even as laws get tougher, distracted driving is on the rise

Technology has always presented us with exciting new developments, and things are changing faster and faster. Laws are trying to keep up with new developments in cell phone usage and its impact on driving. This chart show the latest laws around the US attempting to curtail distracted driving. More and more data show just how dangerous it is to drive while distracted by cell phones. However, it seems like the knowledge isn't keeping drivers from picking up their phones while behind the wheel.

Smartphones have actually changed the way our brains work. Much like a gambler at a slot machine, when we get that little "ping" telling us we have a new message, there's a release of dopamine, the chemical in the brain that makes you feel happy. However, you can't tell if that message really is something that makes you happy or not - until you pick up the phone to check. This is proving to be too tempting to most people, not just younger drivers. 

In a recent study conducted by the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for the Digial Future and Bovitz, Inc. 87% of respondents agreed it was dangerous to text or check email while driving. And yet nearly 1 out of 5 said they cannot "resist the urge" to use their phones behind the wheel. There is a big disparity between what drivers think they should be doing to stay safe, and what they actually do. 

It may seem incredible to those who didn't grow up with more than one television screen in their home, but another recent study showed over 1/3 of kids had touched or scrolled on a screen before they turned one year old. This trend doesn't quit - the same study found that more than 25% of children use mobile devices at least one hour a day by age two. That same amount of usage jumps to 38% of 4 year olds.

It certainly seems that we may be relying on technology to control our usage of technology. There are some apps that can help drivers minimize their cell phone usage, and Verizon Wireless lists a few of them here. However, other studies show that distracted driving isn't limited to physically interacting with the phone, by holding it or typing on it. Even hands-free devices can be distracting enough. 

I think the wisest words come from this 10th grader, Suzi Baydek, who won our annual scholarship contest for her essay about stopping distracted driving. Her tips include locking the phone in the trunk and reminding drivers of cars in which we will be passengers to stay focused on the road. 

Please keep yourself and others safe by being focused on the road. It's everyone's responsibility. 

If you were involved in an accident that occurred because of a distracted driver, call Bill Coats. His knowledge and experience can help you determine the next steps to help you recover from this devastating and preventable kind of accident. It's a free case evaluation, so you have nothing to lose. Serving Whatcom and Skagit Counties, Bill Coats Law is conveniently located in downtown Bellingham, Washington.

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