Smartphones are a common feature in all of our lives, We take them to the dinner table, we fiddle with them while we’re talking with friends and family. We use them in school, in the workplace and even behind the wheel. We know it’s reckless and dangerous, but how many deaths are caused by this activity every year and what are the risk of distracted driving versus non distracted driving?
Mobile Phone Use While Driving
It seems crazy to suggest, seen as we all know it’s dangerous, but mobile phone use while driving is actually very common. If we’re not talking or texting then we’re using them to navigate, to switch between different playlists and even to play games (more on that soon). Because of a spike in accidents caused by the use of mobile phones behind the wheel, most countries now have some kind of law in place that makes it illegal and punishes the driver with penalty points and fines.
In many states and countries, the laws on mobile phone use behind the wheel only apply to minors and those who have just passed their test. If you have been driving for a long time and are deemed experienced and capable, then they may not apply to you. But because of the increased risks involved, you should still refrain from doing it.
Not only is there an increased risk when using cell phones behind the wheel, but there is also a direct correlation between increased cell phone use in general and an increased risk of a road traffic collision, no doubt because those who use their phone regularly throughout the day are more likely to use it behind the wheel as well.
According to a study conduced by State Farm, 1 in 5 drivers admit to using their phone when behind the wheel and that’s just the ones willing to admit to something they know is a criminal offense. The real number is likely to be much higher, suggesting this is a problem that is not going to go away anytime soon.
Drivers Playing Mobile Games
One of the biggest concerns right now regarding the use of mobile phones behind the wheel is drivers who play mobile games. A couple decades ago the idea would have seemed preposterous. The thought of drivers playing a game of Snake or getting out their Gameboy while behind the wheel would have certainly raised a few eyebrows, but with always-on multiplayer games like Clash of Clans, as well as farming simulators and other mobile games, there is a definite upwards trend for this dangerous habit.
They play the games throughout the day and are so used to the process that they don’t think twice about getting out their phones and logging in when they are behind the wheel.
One of the most common games currently putting drivers at risk is Pokemon Go. the game revolves around a virtual search for Pokemon characters in a real world setting. The game uses AR to combine the real and virtual world, leaving players in a constant pursuit for unlockable characters and sending them on real-world adventures to expand their collection.
Getting behind the wheel seems like an obvious solution to help them on their quest, but it means their attentions are turned away from the road and onto the screen, which in turn has led to a spike in the number of road traffic accidents. One law enforcement official recorded a total of 14 distracted drivers in a single day after they all turned into the police parking lot while playing the game, eager to find a rare Pokemon and finding only a stern warning from a rather frustrated police officer.
But they are the lucky ones, because it is thought that games like this are causing fatal traffic accidents up and down the United States. With densely populated cities like Chicago being particularly exposed to the increased risk of cell phone accidents.
How Many People Have Died While Playing Games on their Smartphones?
It’s hard to put an exact figure on the number of deaths caused by gamers using their cell phone behind the wheel and it’s equally difficult to place the blame on cell phone use when drivers get into non-fatal accidents. In the first instance, only a phone that remains on the game screen and is found intact at the scene of an accident would lead police to believe that gaming while driving was the cause. In the second, the surviving driver is unlikely to admit to doing something they know is a criminal offense and more prone to suggesting that they were tired or that they simply made a mistake.
However, there are a number of high profile cases where smartphone use, in the context of playing games, watching videos and chatting, has caused the problem. One study conducted on a single US city in 2017 found that Pokemon Go was responsible for at least 2 deaths because of distracted driving, as well as huge spike in non-fatal car accidents. Another report found that 2016 had the highest number of pedestrian deaths in over 20 years. The number had been on the decline, but thanks to distracted pedestrian and drivers, there was a sudden spike.
And it’s not just recently that these issues have been raised. Back in 2014, a UK study found the increased use of mobile phones to be the biggest cause of road fatalities. It conducted a poll on 18,000 drivers and found that distractions caused by electronics were responsible for more near-misses and crashes than distractions due to other people in the car.