Eight hundred drivers, and maybe more, died in 2017 because of the distractions caused by the use of cell phones. Additionally, the number of people who are endangered by cell phone use has grown considerably over the past several years.
A new study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) points out:
About 37,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, the most recent year of data available. Assuming the prevalence of phone manipulation nationwide rose as it did in Northern Virginia to 3.4 percent, and assuming, based on the latest research, that fatal crash risk is 66 percent higher when manipulating a phone, then more than 800 of the estimated crash deaths in 2017 could be attributed to phone manipulation.
The study covered a portion of Virginia that the IIHS used to establish national numbers.
The IIHS also provided data for 2018, which was even more troubling. Virginia drivers examined in a new 2018 study by the group were 57% more likely to be “manipulating a cellphone” than drivers observed for 2014 survey. The portion of drivers observed manipulating a phone jumped from 2.3% in 2014 to 3.4% last year.
Commenting on the study, David Kidd, a senior research scientist with Highway Loss Data Institute, said, “The latest data suggest that drivers are using their phones in riskier ways. The observed shift in phone use is concerning because studies consistently link manipulating a cellphone while driving to increased crash risk.” The premise is very simply that people cannot look at the faces and keypads on their phones and still watch for road activity ahead or in their mirrors. Once people begin to talk on phones, further research shows that they watch the center of the road ahead and not any of the areas around that.
Finally, the IIHS warned that cell phone use is not the only reason people become distracted as they drive, which means the dangers are more widespread. These include eating and drinking (nonalcoholic) while driving, grooming, wearing headsets, using modern touchscreen devices and smoking. Overall, the research points to the problem getting worse, not better.