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Stacking up the statistics on distracted driving

It’s no secret that distracted driving has become an epidemic. Even though most people understand the risks of texting while driving, many unfortunately still do.

Many people – especially teen drivers – simply cannot resist the ping of a new notification. Or, they think that sitting at stoplight reduces the risk of a crash enough to send a quick text. The statistics say otherwise.

The stats don’t lie

According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost 481,000 people use cellphones while driving during the day. Texting, checking sports’ scores, Snapchatting or posting on social media accounts – all are reasons people give for taking their eyes off the road. Checking a cellphone means the driver’s eyes leave the road for an average 4.6 seconds – the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field blind at 55 mph.

If this isn’t scary enough, a recent study by Zendrive found that the NHTSA’s figures may be too conservative. Zendrive produces driver tracking software for taxi companies, rideshare companies like Uber or Lyft, delivery companies and others who want to keep tabs on driver safety. The company’s software uses cellphone tracking data to accomplish these goals.

According to their 2018 Distracted Driving Snapshot, more than 69 million drivers use their cellphones while driving each day nationwide. That amounts to 60 percent of drivers daily, and 40 percent of drivers in any given hour. Far from the average 4.6 seconds it takes to send or receive a text, the Zendrive study also found that most distracted drivers use their phones for an average of 3.5 minutes for every hour they drive. At 55 mph, this equates to driving 42 football fields, or 2.3 miles – blind.

How New Jersey stacks up

Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that distracted driving is fast becoming one of the primary causes of motor vehicle accidents. According to New Jersey state statistics, distracted driving accounted for 804,000 car accidents between 2011 and 2015 (the latest data available). In response, last summer the state raised the minimum penalties for texting while driving to $400 on the first offense, $600 for a second offense and $800 plus 90 days’ license suspension for third and subsequent offenses.

Unfortunately, these penalties apparently still need time to affect lasting change. The most sobering conclusion from Zendrive’s study is that despite these well-documented statistics, distracted driving got worse in every state except Vermont over the last year. New Jersey ranks as the 20th most distracted state on their list. If the study proves anything, it will take more than just the law to curb the pandemic of distracted driving. All drivers must take responsibility for keeping our roads and highways safe.

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