Does Snapchat play a role in distracted driving?

There are a lot of potential distractions a driver could face, but the mobile app, Snapchat, may increase a driver’s distraction.

Keeping full attention on the road while behind the wheel may be a challenge for many drivers in Washington, D.C. According to Distraction.gov, distracted drivers were involved in car accidents that injured 431,000 people in 2014. Other passengers, food, maps, cellphones and the radio all have a way of pulling people's focus from the road and creating hazards. Drivers most likely to be distracted fall into the 15 to 19-year age range. Could an app, such as Snapchat, add to the problem?

The speed filter

Users of the mobile phone app can take a picture that shows the speed at which the phone is moving. Some people use this particular filter to show how fast or slow a car is traveling. While the app does display a warning that users should not snap and drive, some people may still choose to take a selfie while behind the wheel.

For example, a man in Georgia was involved in a car crash with a teenage girl. Both parties have different views of the accident. The girl says the man swerved into her lane, but the man says the teenager was distracted by Snapchat. A reconstruction was done of the accident, which estimates that the teenager's car was traveling at about 107 mph at the time of the crash. The man guesses that the teenager was pushing her car to greater speeds to get a high number on the app's speed filter.

Other dangers

While the speed filter may seem as if it encourages drivers to take a picture while behind the wheel, this app could be distracting to drivers for other reasons. According to a study done by Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions, 38 percent of teenagers use Snapchat while driving. This should not be surprising since they are often attached to their phones during their waking hours, and use a number of different applications on them.

The app's potential for distraction while driving is greater when people consider the following factors:

  • Users may feel the program is less distracting because it only takes a couple of seconds to look at or take a picture.
  • A geotag feature allows users to let their friends know exactly where they are, but in the car, these tags may only be available for a short time.
  • Special selfie lenses can be applied to make the picture more entertaining, but they also require the user to choose which lens to apply, which can take up additional time.
  • Some lenses require a second person, so a passenger could use Snapchat and still distract the driver by requesting his or her participation in a selfie.

While parents can help their teen drivers understand the dangers of using apps like this, adults should also ponder the dangers.

Maryland drivers can be distracted by a number of outside sources, but mobile apps, such as Snapchat, may create a bigger distraction for those behind the wheel, especially teenagers who are driving. If an accident that is the result of distracted driving takes place, it may be helpful to talk with a knowledgeable attorney.