Just about everyone has a smartphone these days. Are they good or bad for your health?
If you use your smartphone while you’re driving for conversation or texting the answer is bad. There is no question the use of cellphones by drivers is increasing the number of motor vehicle accidents.
The Wall Street Journal reports that auto insurance rates are climbing due to the number of cellphone-related accidents. Michael LaRocco, chief executive of State Auto Financial Corp. said, “It is an epidemic issue for this country.”
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the largest U.S. auto insurer by market share, said 36% of the people it surveyed in 2015 admitted to texting while driving, and 29% said they access the internet, compared with 31% and 13%, in 2009. Among drivers aged 18 to 29, 64% said in the 2015 survey that they text while driving, and 54% said they use the internet behind the wheel. That should make you a little more alert the next time you drive!
The situation is getting worse, not better. State Farm’s survey found that 52% of respondents in 2011 owned a smartphone and 88% owned one in 2015. Distracted driving was always there, but it just intensified as more applications for the smartphones became available,” said Bill Caldwell, executive vice president of property and casualty at Horace Mann, in an interview. The insurer expects to raise rates 8% this year on top of average 6.5% increase in 2016.
The number of deadly accidents jumped 7.2% in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A recent report from the non-profit National Safety Council showed an estimate 6% rise for 2016.
At Allstate Corp., President Matthew Winter told shareholders this month that the correlation between smartphone ownership and accident frequency is striking. Allstate drivers’ average auto bill is up by more than 11% since 2014. While cellphones have been widespread for years, Winter says, “they were not as distracting as when people brought smartphones into the car and began texting and web surfing and videoing and everything else while they were driving.”
Clearly smartphones are bad for your health if you use them while you are driving. Many states, like California, have limited cellphone use to “hands free” use only. This is a good start and most modern cars have “blue tooth” technology that makes this easier. Sadly, many people with cars equipped with this technology continue to use their cellphones in one hand while driving with the other. This is just foolishness and puts their safety and the safety of other drivers on the road in jeopardy.
(In Part II of this series I will discuss ways that smartphones can be good for your health.)