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!