Community Voices

Crime Watch: Research shows alarming data about smartphone use behind the wheel

Recently I received some research from our Crime Watch partner at AT&T Kelly Starling that is truly scary. In my car, I have gotten into the habit of looking at the cars around me, hoping that no one is texting or reading emails while driving. After reading this research, I am more concerned than ever. This is no longer just a “young adult” problem. It’s an adult problem, which is why “young adults” behave the way they do. After reading this, I hope you will think twice before grabbing that phone while you are driving.

Seventy percent of people engage in smartphone activities while driving. Texting and emailing are still the most prevalent. But other smartphone activity use behind the wheel is now common. New research from AT&T shows that nearly 40% of smartphone users tap into social media while driving. Almost 30% surf the net. And, surprisingly, 10% video chat.

Among social platforms, Facebook tops the list, with more than 25% of those polled using the app while driving. About 15% said they’re on Twitter behind the wheel.

As a result of the survey findings, AT&T is expanding its It Can Wait campaign from a focus on texting to include other smartphone driving distractions that have emerged as our relationships with our devices have changed.

“When we launched It Can Wait five years ago, we pleaded with people to realize that no text is worth a life,” said Lori Lee, AT&T’s global marketing officer. “The same applies to other smartphone activities that people are doing while driving. For the sake of you and those around you, please keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone.”

Smartphone activities people say they do while driving include:

▪ Text (61%)

▪ Email (33%)

▪ Surf the net (28%)

▪ Facebook (27%)

▪ Snap a selfie/photo (17%)

▪ Twitter (14%)

▪ Instagram (14%)

▪ Shoot a video (12%)

▪ Snapchat (11%)

▪ Video chat (10%)

Other unsettling findings include:

▪ 62% keep their smartphones within easy reach while driving.

▪ 30% of people who post to Twitter while driving do it “all the time.”

▪ 22% who access social networks while driving cite addiction as a reason.

▪ Of those who shoot videos behind the wheel, 27% think they can do it safely while driving.

AT&T will use the survey findings to help drive awareness of the dangers of smartphone use behind the wheel, and to encourage life-saving behavior change. The company will launch a nationwide virtual reality tour this summer to help people understand that it’s not possible to drive safely while using a smart phone.

Since its launch in 2010, the It Can Wait campaign has:

▪ Helped drive awareness of the dangers of texting while driving to about 90% for all audiences surveyed.

▪ Inspired more than 6.5 million pledges not to text and drive.

▪ Worked with transportation departments in Texas, Kentucky and other states on research that suggests a correlation between It Can Wait campaign activities and a reduction in crashes.

Visit www.ItCanWait.com to learn more.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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