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Smartphones and Cars: The Worst Combination of the Modern Era

The rapid rise of smartphones has revolutionized the way we live, work, and communicate. However, this powerful tool comes with a dark side when combined with driving. The dangers of using smartphones while driving are significant and have led to an alarming increase in road accidents.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019 alone, 3,142 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers. A large part of these distractions have to do with the use of smartphones while driving. Many people have had to seek the help of car accident lawyers due to incidents caused by distracted driving.

This post explores why smartphones and cars are such a perilous combination.

Smartphone-Related Distractions While Driving

Smartphones have become an integral part of our daily lives, providing us with communication, information, and navigation capabilities. However, their use while driving has introduced significant safety hazards via smartphone-related distractions.

Making Calls

Making and receiving calls while driving introduces serious distractions. Drivers often glance at their phones to dial or check caller ID, taking their eyes off the road. Even hands-free devices divide attention between the conversation and driving. Holding or adjusting the phone means at least one hand is off the wheel, reducing vehicle control. This combination of visual, manual, and cognitive distractions makes calling while driving a significant safety risk.


Texting while driving is extremely dangerous. It requires looking at the phone to read or type messages, which takes eyes off the road. Typing and sending messages means hands are off the wheel, compromising control. The mental focus needed to text also takes attention away from driving. This mix of visual, manual, and cognitive distractions leads to a much higher risk of accidents.

Use of Navigation Units

Using navigation units like GPS can also distract drivers. Interacting with the device to enter addresses or adjust settings takes eyes off the road. Handling a GPS unit means at least one hand is off the wheel.

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Additionally, interpreting and following navigation instructions requires cognitive effort, which can reduce overall awareness and reaction time. While useful, navigation units can lead to dangerous distractions if not used carefully.

Impact on Driving Performance

The use of smartphones while driving severely impacts driving performance. This activity takes the driver’s attention away from the road, hands off the wheel, and minds off the task of driving. Studies have shown that distracted driving due to smartphone use can lead to:

  • Delayed Reaction Times: Drivers who use smartphones have slower reaction times, making it harder to respond to sudden changes in traffic conditions.
  • Reduced Situational Awareness: Smartphone use can cause “inattention blindness,” where drivers fail to see up to 50% of their driving environment.
  • Increased Risk of Crashes: According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting while driving increases the risk of a crash or near-crash event by 23 times.

Legal and Regulatory Measures

In response to the growing threat of distracted driving, many states and countries have implemented laws and regulations aimed at reducing smartphone use while driving. These measures include:

  • Handheld Device Bans: Many states have enacted laws prohibiting the use of handheld devices while driving. Violators face fines and, in some cases, points on their driving records.
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  • Texting While Driving Bans: Almost all states in the U.S. have laws banning texting while driving. These laws are often accompanied by fines and other penalties.
  • Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Programs: Many states include provisions in their GDL programs that restrict novice drivers from using cell phones while driving.