Phone use while driving is down, but more of that use is texting and playing with apps

The IIHS studied 12,000 drivers

Well, folks, it's good news/bad news time. The IIHS recently published its findings from a 2018 study of drivers to get an idea of what kind of distracting behaviors people exhibit in their cars. The organization observed 12,000 drivers in northern Virginia to stay close to a 2014 study done the same way with 14,000 drivers. The good news is that, overall, people are using their phones behind the wheel less. Usage dropped from 11.2 percent in 2014 to 9.67 percent in 2018, a decrease of nearly 14 percent.

The bad news is the phone use itself. While drivers talking on their phones, or merely holding them, is down, texting and messing with phone apps is up. The percentage of drivers fiddling with their phones rose 57 percent from 2.3 percent in 2014 to 3.4 percent in 2018. As the IIHS points out, phone use dropping is good, but texting and app use is much worse than simple talking on the phone, since drivers are much more likely to not look at the road ahead.

One other surprising statistic from the study, particularly for anyone that's found themselves yelling at someone on their phone, is that more people are distracted by other tasks such as messing with infotainment, eating or drinking, smoking, searching for other items and other random tasks. The percentage of people busy with these "secondary tasks" was 14 percent, higher than cell phone usage both in 2018 and 2014.

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