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Americans are texting more behind the wheel and ignoring new laws


April 10. 2018 10:24PM

Despite a harrowing surge in traffic fatalities, American drivers appear to be getting worse at avoiding Instagram, e-mail and other mobile-phone distractions while driving.

More people are using their phones at the wheel, and for longer periods of time, according to a study published Tuesday from Zendrive, a San Francisco-based startup that tracks phone use for auto insurers and ride-hailing fleets.

“As you have more young drivers on the road, and as people increasingly become addicted to their smartphones, it will continue being a major health issue — almost an epidemic — in this country,” said Zendrive founder Jonathan Matus.

From December through February, Zendrive technology monitored 4.5 million drivers who traveled 7.1 billion miles, comparing the results with the year-earlier period. Roughly two out of three of those people used a mobile phone at least once.

Among those who picked up their phones, they used them for an average of almost four minutes — a 5 percent increase from last year.

Phone use increased dramatically across the country, including in 14 states that have banned handheld phones behind the wheel. Phones were being used more often in California, Oregon and Washington, where lawmakers drastically strengthened regulations last year, allowing only hands-free use of mobile phones.

Vermont was the only state in which Zendrive recorded a decline in drivers on phones.

In Mississippi and Rhode Island, the worst states for distracted driving, subject drivers spent almost 8 percent of their time on the phone.

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