A new study based on Virginia drivers indicates that people are not talking on cellphones while behind the wheel as much as in the past. However, motorists may be using phones for other reasons, like texting, more than before. Experts say this is not good news because research has shown that operating a phone while driving dramatically increases the risk of accident and death.
The study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compared surveys conducted in 2014 and 2018 on drivers in four communities in Northern Virginia. The surveys were observational. While overall distracted driving was not shown to have increased, 2018 drivers were more likely to use their phones for other, more dangerous tasks.
Research has shown that the risk of a fatal crash is 66 percent higher when operating a cellphone at the wheel. Based on this, IIHS estimates that 800 traffic deaths in 2017 could be attributed to cellphone use that did not involve talking.
The report from IIHS also noted the differences in the way cellphone talking affects a driver's concentration differently than texting. When talking on a phone, a driver usually keeps his or her eyes on the road but still may be distracted by the conversation. The report also states that other distractions like talking to passengers or drinking a beverage while driving are more common than cellphone use.
Phone use behind the wheel is against the law in many jurisdictions. Even if a driver did not technically break the law before causing an accident, he or she could still be liable for any resulting injuries. A lawyer could help a crash victim file a personal injury claim.