Plymouth Rock Assurance, an automobile insurance carrier serving Massachusetts and Connecticut, has released findings from the company’s Connecticut Distracted Driving Study. The study was conducted to measure the awareness of and response to the state’s distracted driving laws, which prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones and mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. While the majority (89 percent) knew that texting while driving is prohibited, less than 20 percent of people who admitted to texting while driving were willing to stop.
Nearly a third of study participants, representing licensed drivers of all ages from across Connecticut, admitted to reading and/or sending text messages while driving. Drivers ages 17-44 texted while driving nearly four times as much as older drivers. The study revealed that the motivation to text while driving appeared to be largely for personal reasons, as opposed to work-related messaging.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) defines distracted driving at Distraction.gov as “any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving.” According to the DoT, 3,331 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011, up from 3,267 in 2010. Specifically, text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Grassroots efforts to change distracted driving behavior could prove difficult in Connecticut, as most passengers (70 percent) are reluctant to ask drivers to put their mobile devices down while their cars are in motion, according to the study results. However, the single noticeable factor that serves as a deterrent for texting while driving is having a child in the car. Nearly 80 percent of study participants noted that they would not text while there were passengers 13 years of age or younger in the car.