The number of people who drive daily may have decreased during the pandemic, but those who are behind the wheel these days are much more distracted.
“Texting or emailing while driving actually went up significantly. People checking social media went up significantly,” said Chris Hayes, of Travelers.
Hayes says their 2021 travelers risk index on distracted driving found 26% of drivers reported texting or emailing, 20% checked social media, 19% took videos or photos, and 17% shopped online.
“You really find that there is this combination of people who feel it’s ok to take riskier behaviors while driving,” Hayes said.
The pandemic and the new work habits of remote work may have caused people to look at their phones more often -- even when they’re driving.
“This never really turning off mentality has sometimes happened. Some people may feel that need to be always in touch,” Hayes said.
Hayes says the survey found 29% of people felt they had to respond if their supervisor was calling -- even if they were driving.
“There’s no phone call that can’t wait,” he said.
Hayes says it’s also important to speak up and ask a person to put the phone down if they are driving.
“We found that many people don’t feel that it's ok to turn to someone as a passenger and say ‘could you please focus on the road,'” Hayes said.
But distracted driving is more than phone use.
“Distracted driving is any behavior that takes your attention off the roadways while operating a motor vehicle,” Trooper Josue Dorelus said.
He says eating breakfast, putting on makeup, or putting an address into your GPS are all considered distracted driving.
State police are increasing enforcement this month because April is distracted driving awareness month.
If you get pulled over, it will cost you.
“The initial ticket is $150. Your secondary fine for the same offense will be $300 and it will be $500 for every subsequent fine after that,” Dorelus said.
That’s because it’s deadly.
“According to the National Highway Safety Administration, during the 2019 year there were over 3,100 deaths as a result of distracted driving,” he said.
Dorelus has advice for drivers.
"Ditch all distractions. Focus on the roadway, and again if you see any type of hazardous driving behaviors, you see anyone on their cellphones, please contact 911,” he said.