There have been a number of safety campaigns in recent years to combat distracted driving. Rightfully so—there were nearly 3,500 deaths as a result of distracted driving in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It’s been found that distracted driving is playing a role in the majority of car accidents. 52% of accidents involve someone who was distracted by their phone. When thinking about distracted driving, many people first think of texting and driving. It turns out you could be distracted by your phone even if you aren’t using it.
That’s the surprising conclusion from a new academic study. Researchers from the University of Texas discovered that people’s cognitive abilities are reduced if their smartphone is within reach—even if it’s turned off.
Concentration falls when smartphone is in sight
Two experiments were set up to reach this conclusion. In the first, people were instructed to take tests at a computer that required their full concentration. Those who put their phones in their bags scored significantly better than those who had their phones face down at the desk.
During the second experiment, participants were asked how dependent they were on their smartphones to get through the day. The higher someone’s dependence was on their smartphone, the poorer they performed on a test measuring concentration.
The key takeaway from this study is that even if you’re responsibly keeping your phone turned off while you’re driving, you still may be distracted by its presence. Placing a smartphone out of sight in a bag, in the center console or in the glove box can help drivers remain more focused on the road.
With smartphones becoming increasingly difficult to separate from drivers, car accidents caused by distracted driving aren’t likely to disappear. That said, putting the phone away can help make the roads safer for you and your fellow drivers by removing a potential distraction.