Smartphones make it easy to stay connected with loved ones, keep up-to-date on local and national news, and provide hours of entertainment. But these devices pose a significant risk when you decide to check your phone while driving.
According to the National Safety Council, distracted driving — like texting while driving — causes 1.6 million accidents per year in the U.S. and makes a driver 23 times more likely to crash. Here in San Diego, car accidents make up nearly 1.6 percent of all emergency room admissions at Sharp HealthCare hospitals; that's almost 700 admissions per year.
Based on statistics provided by the San Diego and Chula Vista police departments, nearly 3,000 citations were reported in San Diego County for using a phone while driving last year, with 36 car accidents caused by cell phone use in the South Bay. To help deter drivers from using their phone while behind the wheel, many states — including California — have passed laws forbidding the use. However, people still use their phones while driving, causing preventable car accidents.
"Drivers already face enough distractions inside the vehicles that include passengers, children, radio, GPS features, eating and more," says Chula Vista police Officer Brian Carter. "One less distraction from the use of a cell phone could save a life. Our community members need to focus on the task of driving before they try to do something else, like texting, in order to prevent a tragedy from occurring."
Many of these accidents happen on the region's most-traveled roads, including routes taken to work or school.
"There are big concerns about any kind of distractions while driving. Whether it is texting, doing your makeup or eating, these types of risks cause preventable accidents both inside and outside of the car," explains Dr. Lynn Welling, chief medical officer and emergency medicine doctor at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. "We're all comfortable driving in a car, particularly the same route every day. Doing it safely requires mindfulness, being engaged and aware of our surroundings so we are ready to react if needed."
As cell phone use increases, so do the risks and chances of being involved in a car accident caused by distracted driving. Help prevent these accidents from happening and lead by example by putting your phone away when driving.
For the media: To speak with a doctor about the dangers of distracted driving, contact Senior Public Relations Specialist Erica Carlson at email@example.com or 858-499-3052.