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IIHS: Smartphone Use Behind the Wheel Is Getting More Dangerous

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Distracted Driving

A new report warns that an increasing number of Americans are using their smartphones in more dangerous ways behind the wheel.

New research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that drivers were seen talking on their phones less in 2018 than in 2014, but were manipulating their phones in other ways 57% more often.

In its 2014 and 2018 surveys, IIHS studied driver distraction by stationing observers at multiple locations along roads in Northern Virginia. These observers noted what thousands of drivers were doing as they went by.

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“The latest data suggest that drivers are using their phones in riskier ways,” said study co-author David Kidd of the Highway Loss Data Institute. “The observed shift in phone use is concerning because studies consistently link manipulating a cellphone while driving to increased crash risk.”

A 2018 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the risk of a fatal crash rises 66% when a driver is manipulating a phone.

The IIHS estimates that about 800 traffic deaths in 2017 may have been caused by drivers using their phones for reasons other than calling. These include actions like texting, looking at navigation information, browsing the internet, and adjusting music or other audio playback.

Overall, 37,133 people died in crashes in 2017, according to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About 8%-10% of those deaths can be attributed to some form of distracted driving — everything from phone use to grooming to dealing with kids in the back seat.

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News Sources: IIHS, Detroit Free Press