Many students use mobile apps while driving, some even after they crash

New report shows that 35 percent of college students use smart phone apps behind the wheel.

Beto Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT/Newscom
A third of college students use mobile apps while driving, according to a new study.

More than one-third of college students use mobile phone applications while driving, according to a new study. Some students even continue the dangerous practice after being in auto accidents while using mobile apps.

After surveying 93 college students who own a smartphone and use Internet-based applications on it at least four or more times per week, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that 10 percent of the students "often," "almost always" or "always" use mobile apps while driving, while one-third indicated they "sometimes" use the apps while driving.

"The technology is evolving so rapidly that science hasn't caught up to looking at the effects that mobile app usage can have behind the wheel of a car," study researcher Lauren McCartney said in a statement.

"But something needs to be done because in psychological terms, Internet use involves substantial cognitive and visual distraction that exceeds talking or texting, making it much more dangerous," McCartney added.

A 2009 online survey of 4,816 people showed that nearly 60 percent of teens ages 16 to 19 admitted to texting while driving.

"A driver using his or her smartphone is clearly distracted, both visually and cognitively, and really should not be driving," said David Schwebel, director of the UAB Youth Safety Lab.

McCartney will present her findings in August at the 119th American Psychological Association convention in Washington, D.C.

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