Compared to other countries, American drivers are most likely to be found on the phone while behind the wheel.
In the United States, 69 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 64 reported talking on a cellphone while driving at least once in the past 30 days, according to a study released in March 2013 by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study looked at mobile device use while driving in the United States and inseven European countries. The other countries included in the study were Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.
According to the study’s findings, using a cellphone while behind the wheel is much more prevalent in the United States than inother countries. In the United Kingdom, for instance, only 21 percent of drivers said they had talked on a cellphone while behind the wheel at least once in the last 30 days.
In addition to talking on the phone, the study looked at texting and sending email message while driving. These activities were most common in the United States and Portugal. In both countries, 31 percent of motorists admitted to reading or sending text messages or emails while driving at least once in the past 30 days.
“While we can’t say why more people tend to talk while driving in the United States than in some European countries, we do know there is much room for improvement,” says Rebecca Naumann, a CDC epidemiologist.
What is distracted driving?
Using the phone while driving can be a significant distraction. “It impairs our brain’s ability to process information, making it a more dangerous distraction than most people realize,” says Jennifer Smith, president and founding board member of Distraction Advocate Network, an organization that raises awareness about distracted driving.
Texting while driving makes a driver 23 times more likely to crash versus a driver who is not distracted, according to Distraction.gov.
State and local efforts in the last few years have focused on reducing distractions. As of April 2013, 39 states and Washington, D.C. ban text messaging for all drivers. In addition, 10 states and Washington, D.C., prohibit all drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving.
Several years ago near Rochester, New York, a distracted driving crash took the lives of five high school girls. Just moments before the crash occurred, text messages were sent and received on the driver’s cellphone. “It devastated our community and I wanted to do something about it,” says David Mammano, CEO of Next Step Academy, an organization that teaches life skills to young people. To raise awareness, Next Step developed a course on distracted driving. Now high school students can take the course online through NextStepAcademy.com.
Parents may be able to play a lead role in battling distracted driving. A recent study by the Allstate Foundation found that parents are the number one influencer on teens. Being a positive role model while behind the wheel and talking to teens about driving risks can help encourage safe driving, according to Allstate and Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE).
Distracted driving accidents
Every day in the United States, more than nine people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver, says the CDC. In addition to using a cellphone, distracted driving involves anything that takes a motorist’s attention off of driving, according to Distraction.gov. These activities can include eating, reading a map, talking to other passengers, grooming, or adjusting the radio.
Given the risks involved, distracted driving can affect what you pay for auto insurance.
Here, three factors to consider when it comes to distracted driving and auto insurance.
1. Getting a ticket matters.
If you receive a ticket for driving distracted, it could have an impact on your auto insurance policy, says Ronald Jetmore, owner of JetMore Insurance Group, an independent insurance agency in Maryland.
For instance, say you live in California, where talking on a handheld phone is banned while driving. If you talk on your phone while driving and get a ticket for it, some insurance companies may increase the amount you pay for auto insurance.
2. You could lose your policy.
When a crash occurs, including a distracted driving related crash, insurance companies consider which party is at fault, Jetmore says.
Some policies offer accident forgiveness. This feature means that you may be able to avoid a premium increase after the first time you cause a crash. So if you are at fault for a distracted driving crash, and have accident forgiveness on your policy, your premium may not go up. However, the next time you cause a crash, the accident forgiveness would no longer apply. In this case, the premium could go up based on your at-fault crash.
In some cases, if you cause a crash due to distracted driving, your insurance company could drop your policy altogether, Jetmore says.
3. Safe driving can result in discounts.
Some insurance companies offer discounts for safe drivers. At Nationwide, for instance, you could receive a safe driver discount of up to 10 percent. To be eligible for this discount, drivers need to have at least five years of driving experience. They also need to have not caused a crash and have had no major violations, such as driving while intoxicated, for the last five years. The discount may not be available in all states, and the savings you receive may not apply to the entire policy.