Harness technology to curb distracted driving


Thanks to advances in technology, cars are safer than ever. But the number of road fatalities have increased significantly. The reason why is in your pocket: your smartphone.

Drivers distracted by their phones were involved in more than half the accidents tallied in a recent study by Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) that assessed data from hundreds of thousands of accidents on US roadways.

Many states have passed laws limiting or even banning smartphone use while behind the wheel, but the results of these restrictions have been marginal at best. The Insurance Information Institute says smartphone use while driving is still increasing, especially among younger drivers, who are also the group at greatest risk of being involved in a crash. The National Safety Council estimates 11 teenagers die every day in the US in vehicle accidents involving texting while driving.

But let’s face it: we’re not going to keep our phones in our pockets while we’re on the road. For all the dangers they present, they’re also hugely useful. We use them to navigate, to inform us of road construction and detours, and to warn us of weather hazards. Smartphone apps are even used as electronic keys on some recent high-tech vehicles!

Phone manufacturers and software developers are aware of these issues. Android users can install Android Auto, an app developed by Google which features voice support, oversized buttons, and the ability to send an automatic text to incoming callers or texters letting them know you’re on the road. Apple’s iPhone users have a similar set of tech tools at their fingertips: CarPlay integrates with many modern automotive software suites. For those of us with older vehicles, the iPhone’s Do Not Disturb menu allows you to shut off distracting calls and notifications.

There are a slew of third-party apps designed to reinforce good driving habits and discourage fiddling with your phone while at the wheel. Some rely on the smartphone’s sensors, some require additional hardware. CMT’s DriveWell, EverDrive by EverQuote, AT&T’s DriveMode, Bouncie, Cellcontrol, and SafeRide are among the many options to choose from in this ever-growing niche.

Many car insurance carriers offer monitoring equipment that rewards good driving habits with lower premiums – ask your independent insurance agent about details.

So put technology to work for you! Dock your phone or lock your phone, keep your hands at ten and two, turn on voice commands, relax, and enjoy the (safe and undistracted) drive!

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Distracted Driving Laws

Cell Phones and Distracted Driving


Cell phones have become ingrained in our culture in an amazingly short time. As a nation, we’ve become accustomed to being available to make or take calls 24/7, no matter where we are. Although the convenience of a cell phone cannot be understated, it’s time to step back a little and be more careful with our phones. 99% of the time, there really isn’t any reason to use your phone while you’re driving. If the call is that important, pull over, stop and take it then.
Studies show that using a cell phone while driving is just about as dangerous as drinking and driving, as shown graphically in this video from 20/20. Yet states have been slow to ban their use outright, with only nine states currently banning the use of hand held phones while driving and 35 more banning texting while driving. That may be changing, as the National Transportation Safety Board has recently released a FAQ sheet on the dangers of distracted driving (PDF) and is calling for a national ban. The idea of a nationwide ban is gaining traction, due partly to a study recently released by California, where traffic deaths have declined by 22% in the two years since hand held cell phone use while driving was banned.
If the ban is passed in all fifty states, how will it affect car insurance rates? Since policies vary so much from state to state, it’s difficult to say. Currently, in New York, being ticketed for cell phone use results in three violation points on your driving record, and a fine up to $100, along with other mandatory fees and surcharges up to $85. The penalties are the same for texting or e-mail use while driving, except the maximum base fine goes up to $150.
Here’s a chart of current State Cell Phone Use & Texting While Driving Laws.