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The Wrong Kind of Trendsetting: Latinos Are Especially Prone to Smartphone-Induced Distracted Driving

First Posted: May 06, 2016 04:45 PM EDT
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A new study found that Latinos are especially bad about distracted driving.

Latinos were early adopters of smartphones, and especially young Latinos, who were much more likely than the general consumer to own a smartphone back when now-ubiquitous computers in your pocket were still catching on.

That standout trendsetting status was something to be proud of, but a new study shows that Latinos are leading in a smartphone-related trend that's not: using their smartphones while driving.

Latinos Leading a Bad Trend

It turns out that Latinos are statistically more prone to this set of dangerous habits than the average person, according to research conducted by AT&T for the company's "It Can Wait" campaign.

AT&T's research found that 83 percent of U.S. Hispanics admit to using their smartphones behind the wheel.

That compares with 71 percent of Americans as a whole who admitted to the same dangerous impulsive behavior, which itself is way too many people.

But many Latinos' habits with smartphones while driving go far beyond occasionally checking a text message or spending too much time looking for the right song to play. In fact, there are large percentages of drivers in the Latino community whose smartphone habits behind the wheel are pretty outrageous.

For example, half of Latinos admitted to using their smartphones while driving to access social networking sites. That's more than the national average, which just under a still-troubling four in 10 using social media.

Even more shocking, over a quarter of Latinos (28 percent) have taken out their smartphones to snap selfies or take photos behind the wheel. That's far more than the average driver, according to AT&T's study, which found that 17 percent (still outrageous) of Americans have snapped a selfie or photo in traffic.

Nearly seven in 10 Latinos have admitted to texting while driving, which stands out above the national average, but in this case by only a few percentage points.

Harmful Habits

Texting while driving is a dangerous habit, and in most places it's now illegal. But even though distracted driving is obviously bad -- it can be just as dangerous as having four beers and getting behind the wheel -- it's a relatively new phenomenon, so there's still less of a social stigma around it.

Nevertheless, as drunk driving has been on the decline across the country, distracted driving is on the rise, as have accidents and deaths resulting from smartphone obsession in traffic.

According to national statistics compiled by Edgar Snyder and Associates, a law firm that specializes in representing people injured by accidents involving distracted driving, about one in every four car wrecks are caused by texting while driving. People who can't put down their smartphones behind the wheel also result in nearly 330,000 injuries per year from accidents.

Distracted driving includes texting, checking messages, and anything else with a smartphone that pulls your attention to the screen and off the road.

Anti-Texting Laws Help

While not all of those behaviors are against the law everywhere, the good news is that anti-texting while driving laws appear to be raising awareness -- and apparently helping people control the dangerous impulse to take their eyes off the road.

AT&T looked at three months of anonymous network data, and analyzed outgoing text traffic with cell tower locations to gauge how much texting traffic was coming from moving vehicles.

The data showed found that in the 46 states with statewide anti-texting bans, there was about 17 percent less texting while driving compared to the four states without a full ban.

Nevertheless, whether it's against the law in your area or not, you know it's a reckless thing to do that could seriously hurt you or someone else. So just don't.

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