New research sheds light on distracted driving issues

Although the campaign against distracted driving has been underway for years, the practice of using cellphones while behind the wheel remains a major safety hazard on California's roads today. According to the 2013 California Traffic Safety Survey, more than two-thirds of Californians say they were involved in a crash or near-miss with a driver who was texting or talking on a cellphone last year.

Texting bans have limited impact

On an average day in the United States, distracted drivers kill nine people in the United States and injure another 1,150, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these crashes involve cellphone-related distractions, such as talking, texting, taking pictures, using Facebook or checking email - despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of states have passed laws restricting these activities.

Research from the University of Alabama suggests that while anti-texting laws do seem to have some effect, that effect is rather limited. The study showed that these laws are associated with a corresponding decrease in traffic fatalities of as little as 3 percent. While these results are by no means insignificant, they leave a great deal of room for improvement.

Addiction may be a factor

Recent research on the way that the brain responds to cellphone use has shown that it that people often become addicted to their phones in much the same way that they can become addicted to other things, such as alcohol, drugs or gambling. Experts who study behavioral psychology and the science of addiction say that some types of cellphone use release dopamine, which is the chemical that provides the rush involved in other addictive behaviors.

Thus, the impulse to check one's cellphone for messages, Facebook "likes," new tweets or other updates is remarkably similar to the impulse to smoke, drink or gamble - all behaviors that people are often unable to control, despite being aware that they are harmful. To help overcome this seemingly irresistible pull and prevent distracted driving accidents, some experts recommend that drivers place their cellphones in the glove compartment or other inaccessible location while driving.

Distracted driving facts

Distracted driving takes many different forms, all of which can be dangerous. However, cellphone use while driving - especially for text-based purposes - is among the most hazardous. This is because it causes three separate types of distraction to occur simultaneously, including:

  • Visual distraction: looking at a phone instead of the road
  • Manual distraction: taking a driver's hands away from the wheel
  • Cognitive distraction: focusing on texting instead of driving

Drivers who cause accidents as a result of cellphone use or other forms of distracted driving can often be required to provide compensation to those they injure. If you or a family member has been hurt in a crash, it is a good idea to speak with a personal injury lawyer to find out about your options. You may be able to receive compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and other damages caused by the distracted driving accident.