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Increased Driver Phone Use Linked To Rise In Highway Deaths

Good data on the problem of distracted driving has been hard to find. The government estimates that 3,522 people died because of it in 2021, but the official number probably undercounts the number of deaths, in part because police are rarely able to prove that a driver was distracted before a crash. The data on distracted driving has gotten better. Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT( partners with major insurance companies to offer downloadable apps that drivers can use to save money on their rates. CMT uses mobile phone sensors to measure driving behavior, including whether a person is speeding, holding their phone, or interacting with an unlocked screen while driving, Its work gives the company insight into the driving behaviors of more than 10 million people, reports Vox.

During the pandemic, American drivers were even more distracted by their phones. The level of distracted driving hasn’t receded. The company found that both phone motion and screen interaction while driving went up roughly 20 percent between 2020-2022. “By almost every metric CMT measures, distracted driving is more present than ever ... Drivers are spending more time using their phones while driving and doing it on more trips. Drivers interacted with their phones on nearly 58% of trips in 2022,” CMT says. More than a third of that phone motion distraction happens at over 50 mph. U.S. drivers spent an average of 2 minutes 11 seconds on their phones per hour while driving, compared to 44 seconds per hour for UK drivers, Road fatalities in the U.S. surged during the pandemic and European fatalities did not. In 2020, 38,824 people died on U.S. roads. In 2021, that number rose to 42,915, and the highest number of pedestrians were killed in 40 years. In 2022, there were 42,795 deaths, among them 7,508 pedestrians. The U.S. is an outlier on traffic fatalities, with rates 50 percent higher than its peers. The CMT findings suggest that the way people use phones while driving could be a major reason, with road and vehicle design and a lack of consistent traffic enforcement.


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