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More than a third of college students say they use mobile apps while driving

According to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, 35 percent of college students use apps on their mobile phones while driving.

Lauren McCartney, a student in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Department of Psychology, conducted the survey, which included 93 students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who own a smartphone and use Internet-based applications on it at least four times per week.

"The participants seemed to understand that using mobile apps while driving is dangerous, and some have even experienced motor vehicle crashes while using mobile apps, but they continue to do it," McCartney said in a statement.

Among respondents, one in 10 "often," "almost always" or "always" use mobile apps while driving, and more than a third use them "sometimes."

"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," McCartney said. "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."

While the participants in the survey don't constitute a random sample, Dr. David Schwebel, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Youth Safety Lab, says there's still reason for concern. "Driving a car is an incredibly complex task for humans to complete safely," Schwebel said in a statement. "There are enormous cognitive, perceptual and motor tasks an automobile driver must complete, frequently very quickly and with split-second precision. A driver using his or her smartphone is clearly distracted, both visually and cognitively, and really should not be driving. The fact that 10 percent of college students with smartphones 'often' are using them while driving is astounding--the fact that 35 percent 'sometimes' do is equally concerning."

McCartney's findings were part of a larger research study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Youth Safety Lab examining the effects of mobile application use on pedestrian safety.