Smartphone Tips

Real and Weird Stories of Accidents Caused by Cell Phone Use

accidents caused by cell phone useThere are times to use your cell phone, and times to let it sit dormant in your pocket or by your side. While smartphones have introduced an enormous amount of convenience into our day-to-day lives, they have also introduced their fair share of dangers. Indeed, according to the National Safety Council, the use of cell phones while driving leads to 1.6 million accidents every year. If accurate, that statistic would account for about a quarter of all car accidents that take place in the United States. Needless to say, accidents caused by cell phone use are a major concern.

Weird and Ironic Accidents Caused by Cell Phone Use

These days, it’s easy to feel like cell phones have been a part of our lives forever. However, the history of cell phone usage in the United States has been relatively brief. Cell phones didn’t become widely available until the 1980s, while texting wasn’t commonplace until the early 2000s. The birth of the modern cell phone, meanwhile, came in 2007 with the arrival of the first Apple iPhone. That year, Americans sent and received more text messages than phone calls for the first time in history.

Already, the brief history of cell phones and text messaging has been dotted with bizarre, ironic, and surprising tragedies and accidents. These incidents serve as cautionary tales to teach us about the dangers of accidents caused by cell phones. Here are just a few of the notable accidents that have been traced back to cell phone use.

Quick Escalation

A recent news story out of York, Maine shows how easily a cell phone related car accident can escalate into a disaster. In October 2016, a 17-year-old girl was driving while using her cell phone. She wasn’t even texting. Rather, she was talking on her cell while operating a vehicle. Still, the driver was distracted enough to run straight through a red light and into a busy intersection. Her mistake forced a dump truck driver to swerve into oncoming traffic, upending his vehicle onto multiple other cars. All told, the incident caused a 10-car pileup.

Fortunately, there were no fatalities and only one person suffered internal injuries. Still, the accident caused a significant amount of damage and showed how even something as simple as running a red light can put multiple lives in jeopardy.

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Ironic Awareness

One of the worst things about texting while driving is that many of the people who do it are acutely aware that they are pushing their luck. Such was the case in 2011 when a Texas college student drove his truck off a bridge and into a ravine, moments after sending his friend the message “I need to quit texting because I could die in a car accident.”

The good news is that the driver in this case miraculously survived his accident. However, he did suffer significant injuries, including a broken neck, a fractured skull, a shattered face, and multiple traumatic brain injuries. The young man spent months in the hospital working on recovery, but has since become an advocate fighting to stop texting while driving.

Reporting on the incident, TIME Magazine looked at the effects that texting while driving has on driver response time. Because it takes so long to read a text and type out a response, the magazine concluded that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk.

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Reckless Endangerment

Inexperienced drivers aren’t the only ones who use their phones while operating motor vehicles. On the contrary, one of the saddest stories about the dangers of texting while driving involved a professional school bus driver in Tennessee. In December 2014, Knoxville bus driver James Davenport was driving a school bus on the highway while also exchanging text messages with friends. In his distracted state, he accidentally swerved and crossed the highway median, colliding with another school bus that was traveling in the opposite direction.

Based on reports, it appears that Davenport’s bus had no one aboard when the crash occurred. Heartbreakingly, the other vehicle was taking a bus full of young children home from school. Three passengers on the bus died in the collision—a teacher’s aide and two students, six and seven years old, respectively. 23 other people were injured in the accident, including Davenport, who passed away before facing charges for his reckless driving.

This incident illustrates how, when you use your cell phone while driving, you endanger not only yourself but also everyone else on the road. While you might be willing to risk your own life, you shouldn’t be prepared to risk the lives of everyone else who might be driving near you.

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A Star Wars Lesson

Unfortunately, it takes accidents and tragedies like the ones discussed above for people to start to understand how distracting cell phone use can be. Because we don’t want to end this post on a somber note, though, let’s talk about one situation where the lesson came from another source: Chewbacca.

Chewbacca, of course, is a legendary character from the Star Wars films. In the movies, he’s a member of the Wookiee species. To the uninitiated, he looks like a mix between a giant dog, a big teddy bear, and Sasquatch. To the people walking down a sidewalk in San Francisco, though, he might as well have been wearing a cloak of invisibility.

For an article about the dangers of texting while walking, Wall Street Journal columnist Geoffrey Fowler had a friend dress up as Chewbacca and stand on a San Francisco sidewalk during morning rush hour. Fowler then asked random passerby how many of them had noticed the iconic alien on their walk to work. Many had been oblivious to the Wookiee’s presence, simply because they were buried in their phones and weren’t paying attention.

This little experiment is funny, but it also illustrates the virtual blindness that our constant cell phone use can cause. The people in Fowler’s experiment didn’t notice a Wookiee lurking around on their walk to work. They could have just as easily walked in front of moving vehicles or into hazardous construction sites, among other hazards. The message is simple: accidents caused by cell phone use occur because of distraction and single-minded immersion. Our job is to remember that there is a time to use our phones and a time to put them away. Driving, running, walking, biking, and all other types of movement tend to fall into the latter category.

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