The Distracted Driving Epidemic Is Worse Than You Think
Life and Leisure

The Distracted Driving Epidemic Is Worse Than You Think

REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

While tough laws and public service campaigns have largely convinced drivers of the dangers of getting behind the wheel while drunk or riding in a car without a seatbelt, it appears that Americans are not getting the message when it comes to the dangers posed by smartphone use while on the road.

Drivers in the U.S. are still looking at their phones nearly every time they get behind the wheel. A new study of 3 million anonymous drivers by analytics firm Zendrive found that they used their phones in nearly nine out of 10 trips.

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In addition to making roads more dangerous for both pedestrians and other drivers, the habit has serious financial costs. Car insurance rates climbed an average of 16 percent last year to $926, due in part to an increase in crashes resulting from distracted driving. More than 3,500 people died in car crashes in 2015 as a result of distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds increases your collision chances by 20 percent. The Zendrive study found that the average driver used their phone for 3.5 minutes per hour of driving.

Fifteen states have laws limiting drivers’ cellphone use, and such laws do appear to make a difference. Six of the 10 states with the lowest levels of cellphone use while driving have laws limiting it. However, the most distracted state, Vermont, also has laws banning smartphone use while driving. Drivers in Oregon were the least likely to use their phones while on the road.