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Distracted driving is deadly: 3,142 people died as a result of distracted driving in 2019, according to the most recent data from the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA). Seemingly harmless behaviors like quickly reading a text message can have serious consequences.
Consider this: Sending or reading a text that takes your eyes off the road for five seconds while driving 55 mph is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
And distracted driving isn’t limited to texts. Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts your attention from driving, such as texting, talking on the phone, eating and drinking, and adjusting your radio, infotainment or navigation system.
The overwhelming majority (87%) of drivers know that cell phone use while driving is a dangerous activity, according to a recent survey by Farmers Insurance. Still, more than half (53%) of those drivers admit to making a call while driving and 45% admit to sending, reading or receiving a text message.
Texting while driving is banned for all drivers in every state except Missouri and Montana.
“It’s understandable that today’s drivers feel a conflict—people know that phones, and the distraction they introduce, pose a risk and can interfere with safe driving, however, phones can be tempting and pull our attention and focus,” said Carolyn Wald, head of product innovation integration for Farmers, in a statement.
The continual evolvement of technology and smartphone apps has a strong pull on our attention spans. Millennial and Gen Z drivers surveyed by Farmers admitted to doing the following while driving:
More than 70% of drivers are distracted at least once a day, according to data obtained from Nationwide’s SmartRide telematics program. “The average participant is taking their eyes off the road too many times, for too long—creating danger for themselves, their passengers, pedestrians and others on the road,” said Beth Riczko, president of P&C personal lines at Nationwide, in a statement.
Nationwide launched a distracted driving program through its SmartRide mobile app in June 2020. The program examined active screen time while the car was moving more than 9.3 mph In September 2020, these distracted driving trends were uncovered:
• The most distracted time window is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
• The majority of distractions happen between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
• The most distracted day of the week is Friday
• The least distracted day of the week is Tuesday
• The average speed when a distraction occurs is 45 mph
One in four drivers use their phones five times an hour, according to Arity, a telematics and analytics provider founded by Allstate. These chronic distracted drivers are 70% more likely to be in a collision than the average driver.
Arity’s data also revealed that 11% of all collisions happen within a minute of the driver using their phone.
“It comes as no surprise to see the correlation between driving distracted and collisions, with more than 700 people injured in accidents caused by distracted driving every day,” said Gary Hallgren, president at Arity, in a statement.
One in four drivers said that the roads are safer today than they were before the pandemic, according to the 2021 Travelers Risk Index on distracted driving.
But far too many drivers had increased distracted driving behaviors. For example, 26% of survey respondents said they texted or emailed while driving, up from 19% pre-pandemic.
“Traffic volumes were lower during the early days of the pandemic, which may have given drivers a false sense of security,” Chris Hayes, second vice president of workers compensation and transportation, Risk Control at Travelers, said in a statement. He adds that data from their telematics program (IntelliDrive) shows that speeding became more prevalent during the pandemic.
Travelers’ findings also suggest that many drivers felt increased pressure to always be available for their employers. In 2020, 48% of business managers said they expect employees to frequently respond to work-related calls, emails and texts, compared to 43% pre-pandemic. One quarter of respondents said they answered work-related calls and texts while driving, citing the following reasons:
• 46% said they thought it might be an emergency
• 29% said their supervisor would be upset if they don’t answer
• 22% said they are unable to mentally shut off from work
The best way to fight distracted driving starts with you. By modeling safe driving practices, you can lead by example and encourage your peers and younger drivers to cut out distractions. Here are some tips:
• Drive phone-free. Never text while driving. Even hands-free calling and voice texting can be distracting. You can use smartphone features like Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving or Android’s driving mode to disable interruptions like incoming text messages and social media notifications.
• Stop multitasking. Focus on driving. Do tasks such as setting a destination in your GPS, picking out your music and making a phone call before or after your trip.
• Avoid eating while driving. Eating can take your eyes off the road, your hands off the steering wheel and your mind off driving.
• Buckle up children and pets. Make sure your children and pets are properly secured before you start the trip.
If you cause an accident because of distracted driving, expect to pay more for car insurance at renewal time. An at-fault accident is considered a “chargeable” accident. Our analysis found that the nationwide average for a rate increase after an accident is 42.5%.
And here’s where a rate increase gets worse: It can follow you for three to five years, depending on your state.
If you are a safe driver and want to be rewarded for your efforts, usage-based insurance (UBI) might be a good fit. UBI uses a device to collect “telematics” data to track certain driving behaviors such as speed, acceleration, hard braking and phone use. Drivers who score well can land a discounted rate up to 40%, depending on the insurance company. But beware: Some insurance companies will increase your rates if you don’t score well.