We all know that using our mobile devices when behind the wheel is dangerous, yet many of us do it anyway. A fresh survey from Farmers Insurance points out just how many are partaking in chancy behavior while driving, and let me tell you it’s far too many.
Case in point: I was almost hit by a distracted driver just yesterday.
While returning home from an errand, I was preparing to make a left turn. A driver coming from the opposite direction was turning right down the same street. As I waited for that car to make the right, the driver behind it swerved across a double yellow line into oncoming traffic to avoid rear-ending the turning car. The aggressive driver almost clipped the front end of my car as he sped past and returned to his own lane. Was he looking at the road? Not at all. He was using his mobile phone. Where I live in New Jersey, using a phone at all in your hand when driving is strictly illegal.
One-third of younger drivers admitted to holding video chats when driving.
The vast majority of respondents to Farmers’ poll suggests everyone knows right from wrong. Some 87% said people who use their phones while driving are a danger to others on the road. Astoundingly, 53% of those same people admitted to making calls while driving and 45% sent or read text messages. It’s no wonder that 2020 saw an 8% increase in traffic fatalities in the US, according to the National Safety Council, despite the lower number of drivers on the road due to the pandemic.
Here’s where things get really crazy: one-third of Millennial and Gen Z drivers responding to the poll admitted to holding video chats when driving. That’s just insanity. Some 28% said they viewed social media while driving, 27% admitted to playing games when behind the wheel, and 24% said they streamed video when driving. These numbers are simply too high.
Help is at hand
I know it takes discipline to put the phone down and ignore it, especially if it’s buzzing and ringing, but technology is here to help us.
Many newer cars support Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, both, or have their own bespoke in-car systems for pairing to your phone. Take the time to connect your phone to your car. This can help reduce some of the risks of responding to calls or messages when driving. Even if your car doesn’t have Android Auto, your phone does — use it. Together with a Bluetooth connection to the car, make sure any calls you take are hands-free. You can even use Google Assistant. It’s there to help.
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If you find these don’t help or aren’t enough, take advantage of your Android phone’s Driving Mode or your iPhone’s Do Not Disturb mode. These features silence calls and texts when the phone senses it is moving in a car. More importantly, they can be set to switch on automatically so you don’t have to remember to turn the modes on yourself.
Last, if you absolutely need access to your phone while in a vehicle, make sure it’s located in a safe place that doesn’t impact your ability to drive. Use a car holder or mount to hold it firmly in place. We’re more likely to grab it if it’s sitting in our lap, so having it in a secure spot might relieve some of that anxiety.
These are just a few of the possible solutions. Google, Apple, and others created these tools for a reason: to save your life. Use them, please, for the sake of everyone.