Smartphones have brought instant and constant communication to many people’s lives in New Jersey. As useful as they are, however, smartphones work best when a person is driving if they are turned off or at least set to mute.

According to a national survey by the insurance company State Farm, there has been a 20 percent increase in the numbers of drivers who own smartphones since 2010. What many of those drivers do with the smartphones is becoming a national problem.

Texting while driving continues to be the main form of distracted driving. Many states have responded with laws making texting while driving illegal. The numbers of incidents have gone down the past few years, but they remain high. According to the state’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety, since 2008 more than 10,000 drivers have been involved in cellphone-related crashes.

Nowadays, surfing the Internet while driving has also become a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents. State Farm’s survey indicates that 1 of 4 drivers now uses a smartphone while behind the wheel. In the years the insurance company has conducted its survey, the number of drivers who drive and surf the Internet has almost doubled.

Research conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reveals the true dangers of this form of distracted driving. On average, the time it takes for a driver to send or read a text is 4.6 seconds. Although this may seem like a very short time, the driver is essentially blind and very likely to cause or be unable to avoid an accident during that time.

New Jersey drivers should always exercise caution when driving, even if it means putting the smartphone down. If a driver causes an accident, that driver could be held liable for injuries, deaths and property damage.

Source: Asbury Park Press, “Smartphones Create Stupid Driving Habits,” Dan Radel, Nov. 19, 2013