How bad has the threat of distracted driving become? Bad enough that Texas passed its first law against cellphone use while driving, ending a back and forth debate that had been ongoing since 2011. And now, a company called Zendrive says it might be 100x worse than previous government statistics predicted.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration previously estimated that some 600,000 drivers made use of their phones each day. But according to Zendrive, which collected data from across 100-billion driver hours, says that they had reason to estimate that 69-million drivers use their phones while driving each day.
Zendrive also found that the there were more distracted drivers on the road between 11am and 5pm than any other time, and that since drivers spent an average of almost 2 minutes looking at their phone for every hour that they drove, it was almost as if they were closing their eyes and driving the over a mile totally blind each hour.
These new number have large implications. For instance, Texas’s new distracted driving law, while a good first step, requires that a police officer see and offender texting while driving instead of banning it in all cases. If there really are 100 times more distracted drivers on the road, it might be time for lawmakers to take a second look at the wording or penalties attached to distracted driving laws.
What else does Zendrive suggest? Most phones these days have access to modes or apps meant to help curb distracted driving. Up-to-date iPhones can now lock out text messages and phone calls while you are driving if you let them, and Android-based phones can accomplish much the same thing by using one of multiple well established distracted driving apps. Here’s eight other steps that Zendrive suggested:

  1. Hands free – Put your phone in a mount or cup holder while driving. Keep it out of your hands, and stay focused on the road.
  2. Set up your music and maps – The majority of phone use happens in the first 10% of a trip. Take an extra moment to get your technology in order before putting the car in drive.
  3. Finish up before heading out – Send one last text to let your friend know you’re getting behind the wheel and need to put the phone down.
  4. Airplane mode for phones – Use Do Not Disturb mode to block incoming messages, let people know you’re driving and that you’ll be in touch later. iOS 11 devices come with this functionality, while Android users can use an app.
  5. A little help from my friends – Designated drivers help us all get home safely after drinking. If you have passengers, ask them to help you navigate, change the music or respond to texts.
  6. Lock it up – Put your phone somewhere you can’t peek at it, like the trunk, backseat or glove compartment.
  7. Drive time, Zen time – Is a text worth your life, or that of someone else on the road? I didn’t think so. Be patient, and wait until you arrive to read your texts.
  8. Be the example – Speak up if you see someone driving while distracted. Tell them you’re uncomfortable with that behavior. Teach your children to speak up when they see you or a friend distracted behind the wheel.