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At Least 35 Percent of College Students Admit to Using Cell Phone Apps While Driving

Do not text and driver

Thirty-three states across the nation ban text messaging for all drivers while driving, and nine states prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Distracted driving, or the practice of doing something else that requires attention at the same time as operating a car, is a significant reason for many motor vehicle crashes, especially among young, novice drivers. A new survey of college students finds that 35 percent of them use mobile phone apps while driving, even after facing the dangers firsthand.

One In Ten Students Use Applications "Often" or "Always" While Driving

University of Alabama at Birmingham student Lauren McCartney surveyed 93 fellow UAB students at random who own a smartphone and use Internet-based applications on it at least four times or more per week. One in ten responded that they “often”, “almost always”, or “always” use mobile apps while driving. Thirty-five percent responded that they use them “sometimes”.

“The technology is evolving so rapidly that science hasn’t caught up to looking at the effects that mobile app usage can have behind the wheel of a car,” says McCartney. “But something needs to be done because in psychological terms, Internet use involves substantial cognitive and visual distraction that exceeds talking or texting, making it much more dangerous.”

Read: Stop Distracted Driving and Sign Oprahs No Phone Zone Pledge

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David Schwebel PhD, the director of the UAB Youth Safety Lab agrees stating, “Driving a car is an incredibly complex task for humans to complete safely. There are enormous cognitive, perceptual and motor tasks an automobile driver must complete, frequently very quickly and with split-second precision. A driver using his or her smartphone is clearly distracted, both visually and cognitively, and really should not be driving.”

The data in Ms. McCartney’s findings were part of a larger research study at the UAB Youth Safety Lab that examined the effects of mobile application use on pedestrian safety. The survey findings will be presented in August at the 119th American Psychological Association convention in Washington DC.

Read: Documentary Emphasizes the Dangers of Texting and Driving

Distracted drivers pose a deadly risk to everyone on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2008, 5,870 people lost their lives and another 515,000 were injured in police-reported crashes in which one form of distraction was noted on the crash report.

The Governors Highway Safety Association offers these tips for managing some of the most common distractions:
1. Turn it off. Turn your phone off or switch to silent mode before you get in the car.
2. Spread the word. Set up a special message to tell callers that you are driving and you’ll get back to them as soon as possible, or sign up for a service that offers this.
3. Pull over. If you need to make a call, pull over to a safe area first.
4. Use your passengers. Ask a passenger to make the call for you.
5. X the Text. Don’t ever text and drive, surf the web or read your email while driving. It is dangerous and against the law in most states.
6. Know the law. Familiarize yourself with state and local laws before you get in the car. Some states and localities prohibit the use of hand held cell phones. GHSA offers a handy chart of state laws on its website:www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.
7. Prepare. Review maps and directions before you start to drive. If you need help when you are on the road, ask a passenger to help or pull over to a safe location to review the map/directions again.
8. Secure your pets. Pets can be a big distraction in the car. Always secure your pets properly before you start to drive.
9. Keep the kids safe. Pull over to a safe location to address situations with your children in the car.
10. Focus on the task at hand. Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.