Distracted Driving the New Drunk Driving

It is intuitively obvious to anyone who drives that other people using cell phones (not us, of course) are a menace to the public. We’ve seen them yakking away with the phone to their ear or, worse, actually texting with eyes on the phone. Indeed, a new study by Zendrive, a driving behavior analytics company, found that so-called “distracted” drivers are more dangerous than drunk drivers.

In Zendrive’s two previous studies, Virginia ranked in the middle of the pack among the 50 states for the prevalence of distracted driving: 24th place in 2017, and 26th place in 2018. Zendrive’s press release didn’t provide state rankings this year, but in a communication to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, CEO Jonathan Matus said Virginia ranks the worst. Drivers in all states became more distracted, but Virginia drivers apparently outpaced the rest, spending more than 9% of the time actively ignoring the road.

I find it strange that Virginia would zip to the very top of the list of worst drivers in a single year. Methinks that perhaps a change in Zendrive’s methodology — as well as real-world behavior — contributed to the shift. Whatever the case, there is no denying that distracted driving is a public-safety problem or that the practice has driven the increase in pedestrian and motorist fatalities.

Both the House of Delegates and the state Senate passed hands-free driving bills in the 2019 General Assembly session but failed to come to agreement on particulars. Perhaps the latest data will motivate them to work out their differences by next year.

As is so often the case, a minority of bad actors account for a disproportionate amount of the problem. Nationally, the number of “phone addicts” doubled last year, Zendrive found after analyzing data from 1.8 million drivers covering 4.5 billion miles of roads over three months. Addicts spend three times more drive time than other drivers using their phones; they actively ignore the road 28% of the time they are driving.

“Distracted driving has become this generation’s drunk driving,” Matus said. “In today’s culture, the ‘Phone Addict’ driver persona has become widespread and extremely dangerous.”

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5 responses to “Distracted Driving the New Drunk Driving

  1. Many legislators consider that a great outcome – they can go home and tell one audience they voted for a bill, but since it died “in conference” those who hate the bill won’t be all that upset. The Hail Mary on the issue at the Veto Session was not germane and either we have rules at the GA or we don’t. (Yes, the question can go either way, these days.)

    “As is so often the case, a minority of bad actors account for a disproportionate amount of the problem.” I wish that were true. But looking around, and knowing my own slips, far, far too many of us are doing this far too often. This is one of those Giant Honking Problems that begs for a solution while we fight over things that matter far less. I doubt 9 percent is the right number- it’s higher.

  2. yup, I don’t buy the ” minority of bad actors account for a disproportionate amount of the problem”.

    It’s widespread and rampant and in my view – anytime there is an accident these days – it should automatically result in looking at the drivers cell phone and determining if he/she was on it at the time of the accident. Just about anytime you see a driver these days – looking DOWN as they drive -you KNOW what they are doing.

    Distracted driving can be for all sorts of reasons from tuning the radio to messing with the GPS, etc, but none of them come close to the length of time a person spends looking at the phone. Radio and other distractions are usually temporary, you’re not staring it for long periods of time.

    What I don’t understand is that most folks are engaged in their life in their jobs that require due diligence and good judgment or else they lose their jobs but when it comes to the cell phone – they willingly turn into idiots in terms of risking life and limb – their own and others.

    Who would willingly choose to be so reckless and irresponsible?

    Many more than we’ll admit because step 1 – we are not collecting good data on it and if we did – we’d recognize how out of control it is.

    I suspect that legislators know this but are afraid to do a law that will ensnare so many of their constituents.

  3. “Addictive” is the right word. We are just more of Dr. Skinner’s rats in a box as the beeps and buzzes demand a response…..

  4. I think the truth is closer to Larry. If you look at cars not keeping with the flow of traffic and not staying completely in the lane, quite often you will see a cellphone in the driver’s hands.

    • I passed a guy driving down Rte 123 towards D.C. who was going about 45 plus and staring straight into his cell phone. I sped up and got away from him.

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