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Study: Nearly 30% of drivers flagged for risky driving behavior

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP June 17, 2019

How many people are killed each year in U.S. traffic crashes involving cellphone distraction? It’s difficult to say. The federal database that tracks fatal traffic accidents relies on local police to recognize distraction as the cause of a given accident — but most police reports don’t have a box to check when that is the case. In fact, the nonprofit National Safety Council recently estimated that less than half of distraction-related fatalities were coded as such in that federal database.

There may be a new way to track cellphone distraction, however. A startup company called Zendrive tracks both cellphone use and driving behavior for ride-sharing companies and insurers. After monitoring some 2.3 million drivers over the course of 5.6 billion miles driven, it can provide a great deal of insight into cellphone distraction and other problematic driving issues.

29 percent of drivers are ruining it for the rest of us

Zendrive found that around 29 percent of the monitored drivers engaged in risky driving. The other 71 percent tended not to.

  • About 12 percent of drivers talk, text and use cellphone apps at three times the average rate
  • Around 9 percent of drivers accelerate and brake aggressively, as if frustrated with traffic speeds
  • Approximately 8 percent speed past the limit six times more often than average

Interestingly, the company noted that the 12 percent of drivers who use their cellphones at high rates seemed resistant to change. In the 15 states with handheld cellphone bans, this group was winnowed down to about 10 percent. That’s not as much of a change as one might hope or expect.

“That’s an area of great concern to me,” said a Zendrive co-founder. “It means either the rules are not known, the enforcement is not effective or people are so addicted to their phones they’re willing to take the risk.”

After a long decline, fatal traffic wrecks in the U.S. suddenly jumped by 14.4 percent between 2014 and 2016. The largest spikes driving that increase were among pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders. That could easily indicate that distraction is behind the increase.

The observation that less than a third of drivers are engaged in risky driving behavior goes to show that traffic crashes aren’t really accidental. They are often the result of careless or even reckless behavior by specific drivers. If you or a loved one has been injured in a traffic crash, you can hold the bad driver accountable through a personal injury lawsuit.