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Smartphones could distract drivers even when they're turned off

Distracted driving – texting and driving in particular – is a rising cause of automobile accident injuries across the country. New innovations like Apple’s Do Not Distract While Driving feature in iOS 11 aim to cut down on distracted driving accidents, but one recent study shows that this may not be much help after all.

A report from The Journal of the Association for Consumer Research found that smartphones distract us even when they are turned off or are in another room. Just the mere presence of a smartphone seems to lower our cognitive capacity, which means that distracted driving may not be as simple to solve as we once thought.

Our dependence on smartphones

Over a decade ago, distracted driving was not as widespread as it is today. According to the research conducted in the report, smartphone owners use their phones to interact with others an average of 85 times a day, and 91 percent of people report never leaving home without their smartphones.

This is alarming, considering that even if your phone is turned off and out of sight, it may be distracting drivers. Humans have a limited amount of cognitive ability, and when part of that is taken up by your smartphone, that means less of it is being used to ensure the safety of other drivers.

The legal implications are also questionable. It is already difficult to prove that smartphone use is the cause of an accident, and it is seemingly impossible to prove that when the phone is turned off or not in use at all. Yet the mere anxiety of missing out on a text or feeling a phone vibrate could be the root cause of your accident injuries.

One thing is for sure – our dependence on smartphones is not going away, and it is causing more and more accidents every day. While drivers may not be able to leave their phones at home, they can be more cognizant of how it distracts them on the road.

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