More than half of crashes involved phone distraction, study reveals

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 4/5/2017

Motorists across the world need to put down that phone. A Cambridge Mobile Telematics report reveals that phone distractions were involved in more than half of all crashes and the problem is not exclusive to the United States.

Since 2015, road fatalities in the U.S. increased by 14 percent, the largest two-year rise in 50 years according to the National Safety Council. Outside of the United States, there are 1.25 million traffic deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Despite many safety features in newer cars, including lane assistance, auto emergency brakes and drowsiness alerts, the fatality rate keeps increasing and it may not be just because of record-breaking mileage being driven each year.

According to CMT’s report, drivers involved in a crash have 3 times more excessive speeding, 3.4 times more phone distractions and 1.8 times more hard braking activity. Among Americans, nearly 31 percent of all drivers are distracted by their phones.

Perhaps the most surprising finding by CMT is that phone distractions occurred on more than half of all trips that ended in a crash. Drivers were distracted for more than one minute in approximately 40 percent of distracted drives. Approximately 20 percent of distracted drives found the driver distracted for more than two minutes.

Those who use their phone frequently, or in the 90th percentile of phone users, while driving are six times more likely to crash, according to CMT. The average distraction time was only 135 seconds.

So what are the top phone distractions? Texting, social media and emails are the most common forms of phone distractions.

CMT also looked at the efficacy of distraction laws. The verdict: Not very effective

For example, Washington State was the first to pass a ban on texting while driving back in 2007. Fast forward a decade later and the Evergreen State has not reached the top ten safest driving states.

Among the states that have installed anti-phone laws, drivers are only slightly safer than those in states that do not have similar laws. CMT reports that states with laws banning handheld devices have an average distraction time of 3.17 minutes per 100 miles of driving. Comparatively, those with anti-handheld device laws for those under 18 have an average distraction time of 3.25 minutes and states with no laws stand at 3.82 minutes.

The worst states for distracted driving in terms of average distracted times are South Dakota and New Jersey. Both states are the only states with average distracted times of more than five minutes per 100 miles of driving. Ironically, New Jersey has anti-phone laws. South Dakota does not.

Two states have average distracted times of 1-1.9 minutes, the lowest in the nation: Maine and Alaska. Maine has anti-phone laws installed, whereas Alaska does not.

The demographic that is suffering the most from distracted driving are young drivers. According to the National Safety Council, 11 teens die every day as a result of texting while driving.

The report is a shift from a 2014 Arizona Highway Patrol report. In that study, cellphones ranked third among crashed that involved distracted driving.

Distracted driving has remained on the National Transportation Safety Board’s Most Wanted List for the past four years, mainly because of “portable electronic devices” such as cellphones.

To read the full report, click here.

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