A new study of COVID-era car crashes finds that a shocking 27% of all drivers were using their cell phones within 60 seconds of impact---and transportation safety leaders are doing almost nothing to stop it, despite a preponderance of proven strategies that can compel us to put down our devices when we’re behind the wheel.
In an analysis of 86,000 collisions that took place on U.S. roads in 2020, mobility analysis firm Zendrive found our country’s record-setting crash rates in the lockdown months usually involved dangerous distracted driving behaviors like texting behind the wheel, which is illegal in 41 states.
Alarmingly, 16.8% of drivers the company studied were using their cell phones in the five seconds immediately prior to impact---and the problem got increasingly worse as the year wore on, and more and more cars returned to the road and rates of other dangerous behaviors, like speeding, dropped.
Zendrive’s technology works in the background of a wide range of cell phone apps, from e-taxi software to navigation services countless Americans use every day, so the dangerous phenomenon cuts across both commercial and civilian driving.
Those early days of COVID-19, of course, were an exceptional time for U.S. transportation. But experts reiterated that distracted driving long predates the pandemic, and the recent upheaval in travel patterns only underscores a long-standing problem.
“Distracted driving is a needless crisis, and now as we navigate increased health risks in our day-to-day, we need to prioritize safety on the road,” said Jonathan Matus, Zendrive CEO and co-founder. “We hope that sharing this data demonstrates the urgency here, and sheds light on a key to keeping our communities safer.”
Of course, we know exactly how to stop drivers from scrolling Twitter when they’re piloting multi-ton killing machines. We just don’t do it.
Federal safety agencies could require all cars or cell phones be outfitted with technology that renders most functions unusable when the vehicle is in motion...