New Numbers on Cellphones and Driving
By Sandra Dalton, Staff Writer
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. On April 4, 2017, Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) released its most recent data on phone use and driving. The numbers might just make you want to stay off the roads entirely. According to CMT, law against phone use while driving have not made a significant difference in driver behavior. That is not surprising when you consider that the penalties are usually very minimal and in many states enforcement is almost impossible since texting is not a primary offense.
The New Numbers on Cell Phone Use and Crashes
CMT does not say how many fatalities occurred as a result of cell phone use or how many drivers were actually using their phones when crashes occurred, but it does give us some frightening insights on driver behavior and crashes. According to CMT’s study:
- Significant phone distraction occurred in nearly one-third of all trips.
- Distracted driving occurred during more than half of trips that ended in a crash.
- In about one-quarter of crashes, the driver was using a smartphone within the minute before the crash, and possibly at the time of the crash.
- The average duration of phone use was 135 seconds, during trips that resulted in a crash.
- 29% of phone use occurs while travelling at speeds of more than 56mph.
- 20% of phone distraction lasts more than two minutes.
Crash Fatalities in 2016
According to the National Safety Council, 2016 may have been the deadliest in nine years. It estimates that 40,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents, up 14% from 2014, making it the largest 2-year jump in 53 years.
Distracted Driving Laws Are a Joke
CMT says that laws against cell phone use while driving have not significantly reduced actual cell phone use while driving. They say that the better solution lies in technology. The company makes and sells apps that it says are more effective at reducing distracted driving. As of now, that is probably true.
Although most states have some kind of law against cell phone use or texting while driving, most of those laws have no teeth. In many states they only apply to certain drivers. Often, if it not a primary offense, meaning that a cop cannot actually stop you for it, they can only give you a ticket for it if you happen to get stopped for something else.
In most jurisdictions, violating bans in texting while driving and other device use is still just a traffic offense, not a crime. The penalties are typically fines, often very low fines and no risk of jail time.
The one big exception is Alaska where you can be fined $1,000 and spend a year in prison for texting while driving, with no crash involved. Last year, Alaska lawmakers introduced a bill that would scale that back to just a traffic offense with no criminal charge, with half the fine and no jail time.
As long as there is little to lose, laws will not make a dent in distracted driving.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed by a distracted driver, you can learn more about your rights and how you can recover damages for your losses by searching our directory to find a lawyer near you.