When it comes to distracted driving, Florida ranks second in the country according to a recent study, which clearly suggests we all need to put down your phones. The findings suggest 92 percent of drivers nationwide with cell phones have used them while in a moving car in the past 30 days, according to EverQuote Inc., the online insurance firm that released the study’s results. The study compiled data through 2.7 million vehicle trips and 230 million miles drives through a motion-sensing app to detect speeding, quick acceleration, hard braking, and other bad driving traits while the phone was in use carried by drivers on their smartphones over millions of miles between April 2016 and March 2017 .
It concluded that Midwesterners are the safest drivers, while Northeasterners speed the most and Southern drivers are most likely to use cellphones while driving.
The EverDrive technology does not count hands-free devices, but aims rather to detect active hand-held phone use such as unlocking a phone while the vehicle is moving, Ruffing said. Use can include texting and talking. Almost everyone breaks the rules sometimes, even when they know an app is recording what they do. But some do it more than others.
Southerners, including Floridians, have the highest phone usage rate while driving – on 41 percent of trips. Other regions used the phone on 34 percent to 37 percent of trips.
Some of the differences may be explained by state laws. Few Southern states, for example, have blanket laws that ban the use of cellphones while driving, according to an assessment of state laws this month by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lower speed limits in the Northeast may make it easier to get caught speeding.
The differences in regional and even state-by-state driving habits cast new light on recent statistics that show the most dramatic two-year increase in road-related fatalities in decades, and add fuel to the debate over the effect state laws and enforcement play in making travel on streets and highways less dangerous.
In its March report on a projected record 11 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities for 2016, the Governors Highway Safety Association pointed to an increase in driving after the recession, as well as more distractions from growing cellphone use by drivers and pedestrians, as the likely causes.
That could help explain why Florida has a high rate of pedestrian fatalities. Florida drivers also seem to be a talkative bunch when behind the wheel, which can be distracting. They rank second on Everquote’s list of states with the largest proportion of drivers using phones while driving. Florida also has a high share of elderly drivers – 22 percent are 65 and over, second only to West Virginia, according to national figures.
Also, we have a high number of crashes attributed to distracted driving. According to the state department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were almost 50,000 crashes involving distracted driving in Florida, in 2016, which is more than five crashes every hour. These distracted driving crashes accounted for more than 3,500 serious injuries and 233 deaths.
Not everyone agrees that distraction from new technology is to blame for the recent spike in road-related deaths. Russ Rader, spokesman for the industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said other factors are more likely to blame.
“Other things are happening that make driving riskier,” Rader said. “Teens, the riskiest drivers, are coming back into the driving force, and many states are raising speed limits. Study after study shows that increased speeds make crashes more likely, and the crashes that happen are more severe.”
The biggest regional factor, Rader said, is that rural roads are deadlier because they’re often two lanes and have high speed limits.
The Governors Highway Safety Association said through its communications director Kara Macek that states need more regulation and policing for all unsafe behavior.
“We’ve got to get these laws on the books and we’ve got to get the police on the street enforcing them,” Macek said. “These things only stop when people know they’re going to get caught