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IIHS says more drivers are using phones in riskier ways

Distracted driving is a widespread issue in Connecticut as elsewhere. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently looked into two observational surveys from 2014 and 2018, finding that the rate of distracted driving has not changed considerably. However, it did find that the ways in which drivers are distracting themselves have changed.

The two surveys observed drivers in four Northern Virginia communities as they approached or stopped at red lights. In the 2018 survey, drivers were 57 percent more likely to use their phones for activities other than talking, such as texting and surfing the web. Researchers stress that any phone use is dangerous. When talking, drivers' eyes tend to focus on the center of the road, but their mind drifts. When operating the phone, their eyes are off the road entirely.

Secondary activities commonly observed in the survey, such as drinking coffee or talking to kids in the car, are also distracting. Operating the phone, though, is the worst, raising the risk for fatal car crashes by 66 percent. More than 800 car crashes occur every year in the U.S. because of drivers operating their phones.

Eight to 10 percent of all auto accident deaths are caused by distracted driving. However, numbers may be higher since many drivers involved in accidents will lie about their activities or withhold their phones from the police.

When a distracted driver causes another to incur personal injuries, the victim may be able to file a claim against that driver's auto insurance company. In this state, plaintiffs in accident cases may receive compensation as long as they are less than 51 percent at fault. A lawyer might hire investigators to gather proof against the defendant, including the police report and phone records, before proceeding to negotiations.

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