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Despite warnings and safety campaigns, an increasing number of women are putting their lives at risk, thanks to that most prevalent of devices: the smartphone.

That’s one conclusion from new research released today by Influence Central, and while some of the findings underline things we already knew, the study points to some worrying trends.

The survey — which took in responses from 500 women via an online, in-depth questionnaire — is an update of Influence Central’s 2012 report. Comparing the two illustrates some interesting, but not surprising, trends.

Telephone landlines — for example — are a dying breed: 54 percent of homes surveyed don’t have them today, compared to 35 percent in 2012. And 48 percent of women said that their phone was their top item in 2016, compared to 26 percent who said their most important item was their purse. In 2012, those categories were 43 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

But the real eye-opener is in the use of smartphones while driving.

Survey respondents increasingly admit to using their phones to talk and text while driving. In fact, 57 percent say they always, often, or sometimes talk on the phone while driving, up from 53 percent in 2012. Among those who talk and drive, nearly as many (48 percent) talk directly on the phone versus using the safer, Bluetooth/hands-free option (52 percent).

And while campaigns such as “It Can Wait” have raised awareness — gathering over eight million pledges from those willing to support the cause — the number of people who say they never text while they drive decreased over four years from 64 percent to 56 percent. Those who say they do so always, often, or sometimes increased from 14 percent to 17 percent.

NHTSA data estimates that 424,000 Americans were injured in distraction-affected crashes in 2013, and the problem isn’t confined to text messaging. Recently, Snapchat use while driving has become such an issue that many have taken to creating their own “Don’t snap and drive” stories in an attempt to educate others.

“We’ve become a generation tethered to our smartphones,” Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO at Influence Central, told me. “The ability of these devices to help us multi-task — doing everything from getting text messages from our kids to checking in on social media — makes it tough to put them down, even when we know we should.”

The paradox is this: The smartphone is now an important driving aid.

“Thirty-three percent of women consumers often use their phone as a GPS device to help navigate, so we frequently have them front and center each time we pull out of our driveway,” DeBroff said.

The report continues to highlight how important smartphones have become in our lives.

The average family now owns 2.6 smartphones, and when it comes to capturing the “Kodak moments” of our lives, phones have overtaken traditional cameras in the last four years.

Comparing the 2012 report to today’s survey reveals a direct reversal of fortunes for the humble camera. In 2012, 63 percent of respondents said they use a camera as their primary device for taking photos, and 37 percent said they rely on their phone. Now, 70 percent of women say they use their phone most for photos, with only 30 percent using a camera.

Influence Central suggests that the increase is due to an improvement in smartphone capabilities over the last four years, but could the shift also be driven by image-centric sharing apps?

“The fact that we saw a dramatic reversal in what women consumers use most often to take photos points to consumer confidence in the photo capabilities of the device itself,” DeBroff said. “At the same time, the rise of visual imagery on social media platforms — such as Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and increasingly, Snapchat — and the ease in which these devices allow us to share images with family and friends via visually oriented social sites has helped fuel consumers’ reliance on smartphones.”

We even keep the smartphone with us at night, apparently. Fifty-three percent of respondents always use their phone as the alarm that wakes them up in the morning.

“It points to our profound reliance on and connection with our smartphones, which do so much for us throughout the day that it proves difficult to disconnect when night comes,” DeBroff said. “With a smartphone at the bedside, we can get text messages from our older kids who are out and about, field incoming calls, since it’s become the home phone now that 54 percent of households don’t have landlines, and do one last check of email, our social media platforms, weather, news, and more. Not to mention we can get updates on everything all over again as soon as we wake up, without having to go in search of our phone.”

So while the smartphone is an incredible device — one that can aid almost every aspect of our lives and one that this report shows has increased in importance — it is also modifying behavior in ways that could cause us, and others, to pay the ultimate price.

The full report is available at Influence Central’s website.

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