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Distracted driving has increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic

Cellphones

Distracted driving has been a growing threat to public safety since the advent of cellphones. But a recent study that examined traffic collisions during the COVID-19 pandemic found something shocking: the pandemic has kicked distracted driving into overdrive. Drivers are using cellphones more during the pandemic than ever.

Zendrive is a mobility analysis firm that "uses sensors in smartphones to measure driving behavior." They recently analyzed 86,000 collisions out of a dataset of hundreds of thousands of crashes, including both civilian and commercial drivers. Here's what they found.

How many crashes were caused by cellphone use during the pandemic?

Roughly 27 percent of drivers involved in crashes during the pandemic used their cellphones within 60 seconds of a crash.

The study further broke down the timeframe between cellphone use and a collision. Out of the 27 percent of cellphone-related crashes:

  • Nearly 17% involved cellphone use within 5 seconds of a crash.
  • More than 2% involved cellphone use within 5-10 seconds.
  • Nearly 4% involved cellphone use within 10-30 seconds
  • More than 4% involved cellphone use within 30-60 seconds.

Other actions Zendrive found prior to a collision included speeding (17%) and hard braking (75%).

Frequency of distracted driving increased during the pandemic

According to the study, the duration of cellphone distraction spiked in March when the coronavirus was first declared a pandemic. Since then, the amount of time drivers spend on their cellphones has gone down, but the frequency of cellphone use has gone up. Here are the figures:

  • January to March — frequency of cellphone use increased by 8.1%.
  • March to October — frequency increased by 0.5%.
  • October to November (when COVID-19 cases began going back up) — frequency increased by 7.5%.
  • There was an overall 17% increase in the frequency of cellphone use from January to November.

The frequency of use is concerning, even if drivers are only using their phones for brief periods at a time, because cognitive (mental) distraction lingers  after the phone is put down. Drivers who read or send a text message may only take their eyes off the road for a few moments (though even that is enough to cause a crash), but they remain distracted for up to two minutes afterward.

“Distracted driving is a needless crisis, and now as we navigate increased health risks in our day-to-day, we need to prioritize safety on the road,” said Jonathan Matus, the CEO and co-founder of Zendrive. “We hope that sharing this data demonstrates the urgency here, and sheds light on a key to keeping our communities safer.”

How bad is cellphone use on Chicago roads?

The study ranked the top U.S. 25 cities with the highest populations on driver cellphone distraction. Chicago ranked No. 2 nationally for having the highest cellphone use among its drivers, behind only Jacksonville, Florida.

While Illinois law prohibits the use of cellphones while driving, there are many drivers who still use them behind the wheel. Most drivers recognize the risk of cellphone distraction. Those who don't often find out after they get pulled over and ticketed, or worse, they cause a crash that injures or kills another road user.

That's why the Chicago car accident lawyers at Coplan + Crane are committed to holding distracted drivers accountable when they cause someone else's injury. If you were involved in a crash with a distracted driver, you have the right to take legal action. Our legal team can investigate your crash, gather the facts to help you build a strong case, and fight for fair compensation on your behalf.

Our law offices are conveniently located in Oak Park and Rockford. To schedule your free and confidential case evaluation, contact our law firm online and we'll get back to you shortly.

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