Multimedia Devices and Accidents

There has been an explosion of handheld media devices throughout the world and this has led to an increase of using such devices while driving a motor vehicle. It began with the iPod devices that allow people to use headphones and to listen to music while driving. While listening to music while driving has not been found to be inherently dangerous, the use of these devices with headphone requires that the person change the “channel” to get to the song they need or to input text into the device to look up the song or songs they are interested in. Because these devices tend to be loud, they can have a mesmerizing effect so that driving can be impaired.

Then came cell phones and there was an increase in texting among individuals. Texting while driving has been found to be a dangerous activity. It requires that the person read a (usually) short piece of text and then, with one or two hands, the individual must type on a qwerty board a response to the text they received. This has been found to cause individuals to rear end other vehicles, to cross the center line of the road or to run off the road. Numerous accidents and fatalities have come from people reading or sending text messages.

And then there came smart phones, often complete with GPS. While GPS allows a person to get to their destination without mistakes, the address of the place you are looking for must be inputted and this may be done on the fly. Such smart phones and tablets technically allow the driver to watch TV programming or movies while driving, this is hopefully a practice that is not being done as it is extremely dangerous, even if the driver keeps half an eye on the screen.

Research has shown that even talking on the phone while driving is dangerous so that its use is banned in many areas. People must instead use Bluetooth devices to allow them to talk hands free.

A study was designed to look into the dangerousness of talking on the phone, texting and listening to music while being a driver or pedestrian on the road. A total of 138 college students were placed in a virtual simulator and told to cross a virtual street while talking on the phone, text with their phone, cross while listening to their music or cross while distracted with anything. Those students who crossed while listening to music or texting were more likely to be hit by vehicle on the road than those who were undistracted. All three distracted pedestrians were most likely to look away from the environment of the street than were those who were undistracted.

Such findings held true even after controlling for participant demographics, frequency of walking and the frequency of media use. They decided that pedestrian use of hand held devices held a small but significant impact on the safety of students and other types of pedestrians.

The same held true for drivers of vehicles and hand held devices. The use of music listening devices was the least dangerous, while the most dangerous activity was texting and driving. This is a common activity especially of teen drivers who are not the most skilled drivers in the first place.