The advent of the smartphone has no doubt been a great leap for mankind. Technology grows exponentially, and the smartphone has been no different. But there are consequences to new technologies, new ways of doing things, new ways of behaving.
The author Alvin Toffler once said in his book, Future Shock, that technology feeds on itself; that technology makes more technology possible. This is certainly true. His book illustrates point after point about the exponential growth of humans and our capabilities. But where the book really gets interesting—and implied in the title—is how humans are affected by this change. For the sake of staying on topic, one must only know that humans have a hard time with change. Like culture shock, humans experience future shock.
It has not been as hard for humans to incorporate smartphones into their daily lives effectively, as it has for them to incorporate smartphones into their lives safely.
There is no doubt that having access to an abundance of information—millions of recipes at our fingertips, directions to anywhere on earth, and all the material we could hope to speed read in a thousand eons—has its benefits.
But how have humans adjusted to the dangers of being half in the present and half in a digital space? How have smartphones become our best friends and worst enemies?
Phones and Cars
Almost every driver on the road has a smartphone with them; most have it within arm's reach, if not on their lap. Using your phone while driving can be dangerous—and in so many ways. Our phones demand our attention. They are constantly screaming, “Look at me, look at me.” And when they are not, we are thinking, “I wonder if my phone wants me to look at it?”
Although this is a silly example, the reality is spot-on. The phone makes some sort of noise every few minutes, whether it's ringing from a call or signaling incoming messages. Constantly glancing at your phone is a distraction. Picking up to check on or reply to messages is even more distracting. Even the use of a cellphone for a regular voice call can divert your attention significantly.
This lack of attention to driving is no doubt a growing issue; for teens, adults, and the children in the backseat. Smartphones and cars just don't mix all that well.
What makes them our worst enemy?
Every day, most Americans use their phone inside their vehicles while in traffic and when speeding down the highway. The use of smartphones hinders our senses and abilities in three ways, all of which are imperative in the operation of a motor vehicle: sight, touch, and mind.
When a person uses their cellphone for any reason, they must look at it. Whether it's a quick glance to see who's calling, reading a sweet message from their lover, or browsing Facebook to stalk their ex, using a phone requires one to look at it. Obviously, when you are looking at your phone, you are not looking at the road. Though it is often quoted, an effective statistic says that at 55 mph, a person can travel the length of entire football field while they look away for just 5 seconds. That's a far distance in a short amount of time.
In order to check your notifications, swipe right to ignore a call, type a message, or even talk on the phone, you must obviously take at least one hand off the wheel. While most people can drive with just one hand, the combination of taking your eyes off the road and driving with only one hand is dangerous. Furthermore, if a split second reaction is needed, only having a single hand on the wheel will make it difficult. The simple fact is, it is best to have both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road.
By far the most dangerous, and least thought of, an aspect of using your smartphone while driving is the mental faculty that is required. Even if you think it is a mindless activity to glance at your phone, read a message, or scroll through Instagram, it really isn't. Almost everything you can do on your phone requires your attention to process the information. It requires thought to think about what the message says, and what you might reply to it; to think about how outrageous someone's post on Facebook is; or to think about whether or not you want to take that call. The simple act of taking your mind off of driving—and all the things that could go wrong in that instance that would require your full attention—is a dangerous prospect. Most people consider texting and driving to be dangerous only because they are not looking at the road. But, the combination of one hand off the wheel, two eyes on the phone (even if you hold your phone up to keep your periphery on the road), and your mind processing the information on the screen, is dangerous.
How widespread is the use of technology in the car?
Since the explosion of smartphones that began in the early 2000s, the technologies available and all the possibilities they hold has only increased. When cell phones evolved from basic devices to flip phones to smart devices, the available applications grew with it.
Now, you can listen to music in your car—constantly scrolling to find the next song or messing with the settings to connect it to your car.
You can use the GPS or maps feature to guide you to your destination, which often involves searching, checking alternative routes, glancing for turn-by-turn directions, or adding a stop to your route.
You can take photos with more ease than any digital camera. Although this should have no bearing on driving, we have all seen the prominence of selfies taken behind the wheel.
Some people use their phones to write or record a reminder to themselves so they don't forget that newly remembered item at the grocery store.
Billboards encourage people to check out their product, but most won't wait to get home. Why should they? They have the internet right to next to them. Right?
With the advent of S-Voice and Siri, people can now ask their phone questions to anything they may be wondering about or find out what the hot new jam is that they are hearing on the radio.
Some have even begun using their phone to play games while driving. While this was once rare, or a matter of boredom or addiction to a certain game, there are some games like Pokémon Go that now require a person to be moving around. Even though they have created barriers in an attempt to prevent this type of thing, people still find a reason to use the app.
Combine these things with the more common texting, calling, and social media browsing, and it's a wonder that roads aren't one big pile up.
This ever present need to look at one's phone—for one reason or another—has made the device both a best friend and a worst enemy.
Addicted to the Device
Most individuals would never leave their home without their phones. If they do, they go back to get it for sure. People even feel the need to use their phone while catching a movie, or eating dinner out with their friends. They use it during social gatherings and while watching TV.
With this addiction to the device, it is no wonder that people use their phone while in their car as well.
The widespread use of smartphones is one of the main reasons that drivers cause accidents, causing property damage, injury to others, physical damage to theirs and others' vehicles, and at times, death. The time it takes to look at the phone and then back to the road takes enough attention away that an accident becomes a likely event. The more time one spends looking at their phone while driving, the more their chances of being involved in an accident goes up.
In just the few seconds it takes to look at or use your cell phone, you have become either completely or partially unaware of your surroundings. In those pivotal seconds, so many different things can happen. The driver in front of you may have slowed down or stopped for whatever reason, you may come across an object on the road, someone may walk out to cross the street, or the light may have turned to red. There are just too many variables.
A single, unexpected collision may cause you or other grave injuries. In just a short amount of time, you may even kill someone, a fact that you will live with forever. Court cases and insurance claims may lead to financial ruin or long-term penalties and loss of driving privileges. The potential consequences will always overshadow the alternative: just focusing on driving.
How your phone can become your best friend
If you are doing the right thing and staying off your phone while driving, accidents still happen. Even though you may take every precaution, focused and alert, you may still find yourself on the side of the road calling your insurance company and waiting for the police. Or worse, in the back of an ambulance. It is moments like these that having your cell phone with you in the car can go from a worst enemy to a best friend.
Having your phone with you while driving can allow you to:
- Call for help. If you are in an accident, you will need the help of local authorities. Likewise, if you witness an accident, being able to call 911 right away may save a life.
- Call a tow truck. We have all been broken the down on the side of the road at one point or another. And anyone who hasn't will soon learn the value of being able to call for mechanical assistance without having to walk to the nearest town (cue horror movie trope).
- Take photos of the accident. If you are involved in an accident, the ability to document the situation will be valuable if you need to seek damages later. Capturing photos of the car's damage (both yours and the other driver's), any injuries, the road conditions, and what the weather was like may all assist you later.
- Research an attorney. If you find yourself waiting in the ER or on the side of the road waiting for the accident scene to be wrapped up, you may find that being able to research an attorney as soon as possible is beneficial. If you are injured in a collision, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel to combat the insurance companies' denials and low ball offers.
So one can see that having your phone with you in the car can be both a temptation and a lifesaver. Although nobody expects that anyone will start leaving their phone at home, putting it away and on silent is a great habit to avoid the lure of looking at it; out of sight, out of mind (almost). If you are involved in some unfortunate circumstances, having your phone may prove extremely valuable. From calling for help to finding a doctor near you, an accident creates a lot of need for a smartphone. Just don't do it while operating your vehicle.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
Distracted driving is a serious public danger, so we at Dolman Law Group are dedicated to creating public awareness. As more people hit the road, and more people get smartphones, the problem is only bound to increase if we do not change something now.
Make a pledge to only use your phone when your vehicle is stopped. Do it for your safety, for your children's safety, and for everyone's safety.
And if you are involved in an accident, contact the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA to speak with an experienced accident attorney. Our practice is dedicated to helping injured victims get the compensation they deserve. Call us today to schedule a free consultation at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765