Texting and driving is banned in 46 states, and mobile phone use is banned for young drivers in 30 states, but drivers on U.S. roads know their counterparts are still easily distracted.
A recent survey by automotive pricing site Kelly Blue Book found that a whopping 97% of drivers consider distracted drivers their greatest concern on U.S. roads. Distracted drivers are more feared than impaired drivers (75%), road rage (50%) and weather conditions.
“Mobile phone technology offers enhanced convenience and connectivity for consumers, but it is increasingly a source of distraction on the road,” says Arthur Henry, senior manager of strategic insights for Kelley Blue Book.
Among those surveyed, 91% are aware of current local laws pertaining to texting while driving. However, 81% of respondents are quick to blame Millennials between the ages of 19 and 34 for texting behind the wheel. Roughly 66% of all respondents think 19- to 25-year-olds text most often while driving, followed by 26- to 34-year-olds and 15- to 18-year-olds at 15% each. However, given that 20% of total respondents say they text while driving -- 55% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 report likewise -- there are folks outside of that key demographic who may be protesting just a bit too much.
Consider that, as a whole, 41% of drivers don't feel texting affects their ability to drive (hint, it totally does). In all, 62% of respondents report texting while at a standstill, 2% while in motion, and 36% while both at a standstill and while in motion. It isn't just the kids, folks.
“Almost half of consumers [47%] send text messages while driving, because they feel it can’t wait,” said Rebecca Lindland, senior director of commercial insights for Kelley Blue Book. “In order to combat this issue, friends, family and colleagues need to develop situational awareness and avoid texting someone when we know they are driving in an effort to keep them and other drivers out of harm’s way.”
But why does it matter, you ask?
For one, because you are already following other drivers way too closely and have just about no margin for error. Progressive used its Snapshot in-car black boxes from its pay-as-you-drive insurance program to measure how much time it takes the average car to stop. For decades, driver education classes taught that there should be four seconds between you and the driver in front of you. In practice, however, that's basically leaving just enough room for a really solid accident.
A car traveling ten miles per hour takes an average of eight seconds to come to a complete stop. Put that up to 60 mph on a highway, and even someone who jams on the brakes heavily needs 12 seconds to stop. On average, drivers need 24 seconds and more than 1,260 feet to make that same stop. Every second your eyes spend focused on a text is a second that you aren't seeing brake lights and aren't bringing your own car to a halt.
"After analyzing Snapshot driving data, we’ve found hard braking to be one of the most highly predictive variables for predicting future crashes," said Dave Pratt, general manager of usage-based insurance for Progressive. "We know that one of the main contributors to hard braking is tailgating, so we’re using our data to help drivers be as alert and aware as possible on the road.”
Even if you somehow manage to not hurt or kill yourself or anyone else, the consequences of distracted driving can be costly. According to the folks at InsuranceQuotes.com, if you text or talk your way through a yield signal or stop sign and you're ticketed for it, that's going to boost your insurance premium by 18%, on average. If this actually results in an accident and the police are kind enough to charge you with careless driving, your rate is going up by an average of 27%. However, considering that 91% of you know the rules against texting and driving, law enforcement could argue that you knowingly broke that rule and charge you with reckless driving, which carries a whopping 83% penalty.
And that's if you live in a lenient state. Reckless driving will just about double your premium in North Carolina, Connecticut or Massachusetts. It's a similarly grim penalty in Michigan (113% increase), Illinois (115%) and California (180%), but that same violation in Hawaii will almost triple your rates.
That hike is for more than just one year. Laura Adams, senior analyst for insuranceQuotes.com, notes that a violation can stay on your record for up to five years. In states such as California and Hawaii, where a driver's safety record has to be the primary factor in setting premiums, any violation is setting you up for about half a decade of expensive penalties.
“The intent behind these violations is what's really important to the insurance company,” Adams says. “They view it as how likely you are to get into an accident and make a claim on your insurance policy.”
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.