Kids these days. Always on their phones swiping the apps and making their TikToks while driving. It’s ridiculous. No wonder the roads are so dangerous now. Oh, wait, what’s that? Gig workers and parents are more likely to be distracted by their phones while driving? That doesn’t fit the narrative.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, that’s exactly the case. It recently surveyed 2,000 drivers in the U.S. about what else they do while driving. “Tasks were separated into ordinary activities and those that involved a mobile phone or another electronic device, and the device-based activities were further categorized into basic talking and texting and smartphone-based activities like programming a navigation app or checking a social media feed. For some device-based activities, drivers were also asked whether they performed the task using a hands-free feature.”
About two-thirds of participants said they had done something distracting in the last 30 days, and half of them admitted they do at least one thing most of the time they’re driving. So that’s not good. Although to be fair, it isn’t clear whether these figures included (still not ideal) phone use while stopped at a traffic light or only counted phone use while the car was moving.
The good news is, the majority of those surveyed said their phone use while driving was limited to handsfree features such as using voice control to set a destination on their navigation app or send a text. That’s much less dangerous but still technically counts as a distraction. The much worse news is that eight percent of respondents admitted to regularly playing games on their phones while driving which almost definitely isn’t handsfree and is kind of terrifying.
The survey also found that gig workers such as drivers for Uber and Lyft “were more than twice as likely as other drivers to engage in any distracting activity and nearly four times as likely to regularly use smartphone apps while driving.” Anyone who’s ever taken an Uber probably isn’t surprised by that finding. But consider this your regular reminder to always wear your seatbelt if you decide to use a ride-hailing app.
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The more surprising result is that parents with children under the age of 18 were “were 65 percent more likely than other drivers to perform non-device-based tasks, 31 percent more prone to any device-based distraction and 47 percent more likely to engage in smartphone-enabled secondary activities.” Parents were also “50 percent more prone to routinely making video calls, checking weather reports and other types of smartphone-enabled distractions than drivers without children 18 or younger.”
To be fair, as mentioned previously, parents and gig drivers are far from the only ones using their phones while driving. It’s a big problem regardless of age or occupation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that a minimum of 3,000 people were killed by distracted drivers in 2020.
So please put your phones away while driving. Not to sound like a billboard on the side of a highway, but no text or Facebook notification is important enough to risk crashing, dying, or potentially killing someone else.