Jean Quan might want to put her smartphone away while driving.
The Oakland mayor was involved in a minor accident Sunday evening with another vehicle. There are conflicting reports over who was at fault, though KRON-4 TV notes that the other driver saw Quan on her phone just before the accident and witnesses say Quan ran a red light just before the crash.
This is the second time Quan has been in the news for distracted driving in the last week; she was caught texting while driving just six days ago. It’s illegal in California to text or call another person while driving.
Luckily no one was seriously injured on Sunday. Regardless of what happened, or who was at fault, this story brings up a hot button issue: The more capable our smartphones have become, the more likely it seems we’ll use them in the car.
In fact, this 2012 study from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers found that more than 90 percent of smartphone users keep their phone in their hand, lap, cup holder or on the passenger’s seat and 61 percent check their phone every hour during the day. While driving, 67 percent of drivers use GPS, 54 percent make calls, 33 percent access the web and 30 percent e-mail or text message.
Of course, Quan isn’t the only one making the dangerous decision to do this. As Monica Guzman wrote back in 2012, many of us can probably admit that we’ve made a call, sent a quick text or checked directions on our phones while we’re in the driver’s seat.
But that doesn’t mean it’s OK. In fact, the Washington state Traffic Commission says those who text and drive are six times more likely to be in an accident than a drunk driver.
There’s no doubt that this will continue to be an issue as we rely on our smartphones more than ever. It’s particularly concerning because the least experienced drivers on the road — teenagers — are the ones using smartphones most often.
This problem has also fueled debates in the ride-sharing circles, where many have expressed safety concerns over how much drivers from Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and others heavily rely on their smartphones — for navigation while driving, to contact passengers, to accept payment, to rate passengers, etc.
On top of improving safety, it’s a good idea to put away your phone while driving if you want to avoid being ticketing. Talking on a handheld cell phone is banned in 12 states, while texting is banned in 43 states. Both laws are active in Washington, which was the first state to ban text messaging while driving back in 2007.
Innovations like Google’s self-driving cars and hands-free devices may allow people to use their smartphones in cars more safely — while it’s new technology that has created more distracted drivers, maybe even newer hands-free technology will help people keep their eyes on the road.
For now, though, it’s certainly not a bad idea for all of us — including Mayor Quan — to ignore the devices while driving.