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What's more distracting to Chicago drivers? Smartphones or smartwatches?

A woman checks her smartwatch while driving a car

Cellphones and smartphones take a lot of heat for a boom in distracted driving car accidents in Illinois and around the U.S. Smartwatches, though, could be an even bigger distraction.

A new study has found that using smartwatches while driving increases the amount of time it takes a person to respond to sudden changes. It also decreases an operator's ability to assess and react to problems.

This issue is expected to grow in importance as more and more people start using wearable technology. Right now, about 1 in 6 Americans own a smartwatch that they use at least once a month. By the end of next year, more than 73 million people are predicted to be using wearable electronic equipment.

New research on the topic was recently conducted by HEC Montreal Tech3Lab. The lab compared smartwatches to mobile phones and looked at the effect of sending text or voice messages on drivers' reactions and concentration. They found that smartwatches are more distracting than mobile phones and voice assistance programs.

Drivers' gazes were less focused when attempting to check a smartwatch compared to a smartphone.

The safer way to send and receive communication alerts while operating a vehicle is by voice, the study concludes.

What are Illinois' distracted driving laws?

Distracted driving is one of the main forces behind a spike in car accidents, according to researchers. This continues despite most states creating anti-texting and driving legislation and promoting enforcement and awareness campaigns. In 2020, car accidents spiked across the U.S. Despite people staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is predicted to have had the highest fatal accident count in 13 years.

The pull of the unknown message is just too alluring.

In Illinois, the law bans the use of handheld devices for texting or other distracting activities. Hands-free devices may be used by drivers who are ages 19 and older. Headsets are not okay while driving, though single ear wireless devices are fine. Also, holding your phone while using it on speaker mode is a violation.

Illinois goes a step further than most states and has identified the use of hands-free technology like voice-activated controls as another example of distracted driving. State safety officials recommend drivers pull over to the side of the road when making calls, even on hands-free devices.

There are three situations in which a driver in Illinois can legally use a hands-required cellphone or similar device:

  • To report an emergency
  • While parked or on the shoulder of a roadway
  • While stopped due to normal traffic — the vehicle must be in neutral or park

What is distracted driving?

In nearly 10% of all fatal accidents and 15% of crashes that cause injury, distracted driving is a factor.

More than 3,140 people died in distracted driving accidents in 2019, according to the most recent information available. The numbers are almost certainly underreported. Not a lot of people want to admit to driving distracted.

Distraction categories include:

  • Talking or listening to a cellphone
  • Manipulating a cellphone
  • Adjusting audio or climate controls
  • Using other component or controls integrated into the vehicle
  • Using or reaching for a device or other object inside the vehicle
  • Distracted by another person, object, or outside event
  • Eating and drinking
  • Smoking-related
  • Inattention and daydreaming

Our car accident lawyers fight for Chicago's injured

Even in crashes where it seems obvious a distracted driver was at fault, don't count on them taking responsibility for their actions. And never count on the insurance companies to give you the compensation you deserve for your accident-related expenses. The insurance industry earns billions of dollars in profits every year by shortchanging accident victims just like you. Insurance adjusters — even the one who sounds like your friend on the phone — work for the insurance companies, not you.

We know what's at stake for you and your loved ones. If you don't get fair and full compensation for your damages, you could wind up paying out of pocket for these expenses down the road. That's not right. That's why it's so important you have an attorney by your side to aggressively advocate for your best interests and maximize the value of your claim.

To learn more about your legal rights and options after a car accident, contact us today for a free consultation.

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