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Distracted Driving: How Smartphone Apps are Putting Gig-Workers & Parents at Risk

By now, most people should understand that using a smartphone while driving is dangerous because it takes your attention away from the road and increases your chances of causing a car accident. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop some drivers from doing it anyway.

According to a new survey from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), researchers found that gig-economy workers are 4 times more likely than other drivers to use smartphone apps while driving.

Alarmingly, the study also revealed that parents with children under 18 are almost 50 percent more likely to interact with their phones while driving than other drivers, whether they're making video calls, checking the weather forecast, or browsing social media.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that distraction-related crashes caused over 3,000 deaths in 2020, but that number may be even higher since it's often difficult to determine if distraction contributed to a crash.

Breaking down the IIHS study

A nationwide survey of 2,000 drivers by the IIHS revealed that most perform distracting activities such as device-based tasks (talking/texting, using a smartphone, etc.) and ordinary activities (eating, drinking, etc.) while driving. The most common device-based task was programming a navigation app, but 8% admitted to regularly playing games on their mobile devices while behind the wheel.

The study also noted that 8 out of 10 drivers reported regularly using voice commands to program navigation apps, and 7 out of 10 reported regularly using voice commands to read and send texts while driving, indicating that hands-free device-based activities were the preferred method when available.

"Hands-free operation is generally believed to be less dangerous since drivers can more easily keep their eyes on the road," said IIHS Research Associate Aimee Cox, the lead author of the study. "However, it doesn't eliminate the distraction altogether."

Previous research has found that hands-free systems with voice commands are safer than those that require manual operations — but note that "safer" does not mean "safe," since the cognitive aspects of distraction are still present even if your hands are on the wheel. However, smartphone activities such as scrolling social media or playing games can be difficult to manage hands-free, and drivers ages 18 to 34 are more likely to use smartphone apps while driving than other age groups.

Parents & gig-economy workers are driving distracted.

Surprisingly, parents of children ages 18 and under were significantly more likely to be distracted by device or smartphone activities than other drivers. Gig-economy workers were also found to be significantly more likely than other drivers to use their smartphones while driving.

This behavior went beyond just communicating with customers and using apps to navigate. It is likely due to the long hours these workers have to spend on the road, prompting them to find ways of entertaining themselves.

"These results show that nobody is immune to distraction and suggest that hands-free capabilities may be making us a little too comfortable using our phones and other devices behind the wheel," said IIHS President David Harkey.

The dangers of distracted driving

According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, it is illegal to use a handheld cell phone while driving—and for good reason. Texting while driving is the most dangerous form of distracted driving.

Remember, when you're looking at your phone to compose, read or reply to a text message, you are not able to fully focus on the task of driving. This increases the risk of an accident and makes it harder for you to react to unexpected situations on the road, such as sudden stops or turns.

Moreover, texting while driving increases the risk of drifting from the lane, running stop signs, stop lights, and other traffic signals, which can lead to severe accidents involving other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Contact a South Carolina car accident lawyer today.

It only takes one careless driver to cause a crash that has long-term, severe consequences for you and the people you care about. Often, crash victims are burdened with hefty medical bills, lost wages, physical pain, and psychological suffering due to their accidents.

Unfortunately, insurance companies often try to take advantage of crash victims by offering them settlements that are less than what they are entitled to receive. They do this by trying to settle claims quickly before the full extent of the victim's injuries and losses are fully known.

In other cases, an insurance adjuster may pressure you into accepting a lowball settlement by threatening to deny your claim or making the claims process intentionally difficult. They may even argue you were partially at fault for the accident or that your injuries or losses are not as severe as you claim. That's when having experienced legal representation on your side can make all the difference.

At Twenge + Twombley Law Firm, we don't put up with the game insurance companies play. Our attorneys are highly skilled at dealing with insurance adjusters, building strong cases, and aggressively advocating for the compensation our clients need and deserve.

If you were hit by a negligent driver, whether they were using a smartphone or not, you may be entitled to compensation. To learn more about how an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer can help you, contact us today for a free consultation. We proudly serve clients in Beaufort, Bluffton, and Hilton Head.

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