Distracted Driving: Part I

Thank you to our friends at Travelers Institute for providing us with this important information.

Distracted driving is a serious concern for us at ECG Insurance because we value all of our customers and we want to do everything we can to keep you safe from harm. Especially during the holiday season, we know many people are driving more than usual and we know the chances of distracted or impaired driving can increase. Please take some time to read through the first of this two part series on distracted driving and keep an eye on our social media platforms where we’ll be highlighting this important information throughout the month of December.

Last year, U.S. traffic fatalities are estimated to have hit a 16-year high, with 42,915 people killed in traffic crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Notably, this total is:

  • A 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020. 
  • The highest number of fatalities since 2005.
  • The largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history.

The nature of distracted driving is changing. Over the last decade, the number of drivers talking on their smartphones has decreased, but the number of drivers manipulating their smartphones (texting, emailing, scrolling through social media) has more than doubled, according to Dr. Ian Reagan, Senior Research Scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The associated risk is much higher than just talking on a smartphone. And with in-vehicle screens and automated features in more vehicles, drivers may be presented with additional distractions, Dr. Reagan said. 

These hazardous driving behaviors can lead to dangerous – and deadly – road conditions. When it comes to distracted driving, the vast majority of people surveyed in the 2022 Travelers Risk Index can recognize and agree on the dangers – but they’ll still admit to being distracted behind the wheel.

  • The majority of drivers admit to risky technology-related distracted driving behaviors.
  • 74% admit to looking at map directions on a smartphone.
  • 56% admit to reading a text message or email.
  • Among those who take calls/texts/emails while driving (69% of drivers overall), more than 4 in 10 say they are work related. 

These distracted drivers are likely to find themselves in potentially dangerous situations. Travelers data shows that 34% of Americans say they have had a “near miss,” while 10% report actually having been in a motor vehicle crash because they personally were distracted while driving. Distracted drivers aren’t just endangering themselves – every driver they share the road with is also at increased risk.


One of the most important ways people first detect danger is through visual observation. Visual distractions happen when you take your eyes off the road and can make you blind to potential problems ahead. Unfortunately, this extremely dangerous behavior is not uncommon. 

Manual distractions occur when you take your hand or hands off the wheel, for example, by eating, texting or reaching for objects. Also, manual distractions are typically combined with visual distractions, and require the driver to focus on what is being touched or manipulated, rather than on the road. 

One study showed that, while texting, drivers take their eyes off of the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of their driving the length of a football field with their eyes closed. Overall, studies have shown that visual distraction from activities such as dialing or texting on a cellphone can increase driving risk substantially, ranging from five to six times more likely to have a collision. 

Some of the most dangerous driving activities combine these distractions. For example, text messaging. According to the study, a texting driver is: 

  • Visually distracted by looking at the cellphone.
  • Manually distracted by holding and typing on the cellphone.
  • Cognitively distracted by reading and responding to messages.

Once you’re distracted, research shows it can take up to 27 seconds to refocus.


Pandemic-related, economic and other pressures over the last few years may have put our brains into overdrive. And that’s a distracted driving danger. When a driver’s mind is not focused on driving, that’s considered a cognitive distraction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

A variety of non-driving cognitive activities, such as thinking about financial or family problems, or even daydreaming, can distract a driver from the cognitive responsibilities of driving and may be as dangerous as visual or manual distractions. 

Through the pandemic, many people faced increased work pressures and family needs, which may have contributed to riskier driving habits on the road. For example, Cambridge Mobile Telematics, the world’s largest telematics provider, gathers sensor data from millions of devices to understand driver behavior. It reports that:

  • 37% of all trips involve some type of distraction due to handling a phone while driving.
  • 36% of all distracted driving happens at 50 mph or above.

1 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts, Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2021 https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813283

2 Travelers, 2022 Travelers Risk Indexhttps://www.travelers.com/resources/risk-index

3 Travelers, 2022 Travelers Risk Index https://www.travelers.com/resources/risk-index

4 Travelers, 2022 Travelers Risk Index https://www.travelers.com/resources/risk-index

5 Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, September 2009. www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/FMCSA-RRR-09-042.pdf 

6 Kidd, D.G. and McCartt, A.T. The relevance of crash type and severity when estimating crash risk using the SHRP2 naturalistic driving data, ARRB Group Ltd and Authors, 2015

7 Dingus, T. A., Guo, F., Lee, S., Antin, J. F., Perez, M., Buchanan-King, M., and Hankey, J. (2016). Driver crash risk factors and prevalence evaluation using naturalistic driving data. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 113(10), 2636-2641. doi:10.1073/pnas.1513271113 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26903657/

8 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety https://newsroom.aaa.com/2015/10/new-hands-free-technologies-pose-hidden-dangers-for-drivers/

9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/distracted_driving/index.html

10 Cambridge Mobile Telematics data, used with permission 2022

11 Cambridge Mobile Telematics data, used with permission 2022