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Phone distractions cause serious accidents, say scientists

The link between mobile phone distraction and accidents has been investigated by Finnish scientists.

We've all been there: you're walking down the street when a text arrives, which you read, and just as you're giggling over that hilarious autocorrect from your friend -- bam! You've fallen down a well. Fortunately, the link between mobile phone distraction and accidents is being investigated, using science.

New Scientist reports a study in the Accident Analysis and Prevention journal, in which a team of Finnish boffins analyse accidents and near-misses involving mobile phones.

Scientists at the Tampere Institute of Technology asked 6,000 people if they had had an accident or near-miss while using their phone.

At work, less than 1 per cent of those surveyed had had an accident related to their phone. Outside the office however, 13.7 per cent of people admitted they had nearly had an accident, and 2.4 per cent admitted they had run into trouble while using their phone.

One problem with the research is it asks us if we've come close to an accident, which assumes that despite being distracted enough to nearly come a cropper, we're aware enough to realise we've had a lucky escape. Which doesn't count the many occasions when an unwitting phone user, cocooned in their conversation or their tunes, sails on out of the danger zone, blithely oblivious to how close they came to disaster...

The worst offenders are men and young people, according to the survey. As if mobiles aren't distracting enough in themselves, separate research points out those groups are more likely to be drunk too. The Center for Disease Control in the US -- when it's not busy fighting off the walking dead -- notes that those who only have a mobile phone and no landline are often young men, the group most likely to binge-drink. No doubt leading to most Facebook photos being taken when we're tipsy.

If you've ever done yourself a mischief because of your mobile -- like these prize idiots -- you know how distracting a phone can be, whether you're looking at the screen when you should be looking where you're going, or a phone call or music blocks out the world around you. Let's hope phones are tough enough to take the knocks -- and if not, maybe it's time to invest in a case like the one that fell from orbit... and survived.

Have you ever had a mobile-related mishap? What's the worst injury or accident you or your friends can blame on technology? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook page.