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Distracted Drivers in the COVID Age

From food delivery services to face masks, the effects of COVID-19 are evident everywhere. One of the more alarming footprints left by this peculiar virus is a recent change in pandemic driving behaviors. Not content with its impact on business, education, and leisure, COVID-19 has altered the way Americans drive.

The Evidence

The US Department of Transportation found a 7% increase in traffic fatalities in 2020. Fatalities increased for both drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bikers, and the number of crashes in which occupants were ejected from the vehicle increased by a whopping 20%. These grisly statistics are especially alarming given that fewer Americans commuted to work during 2020. The DOT blames distracted driving for the change.

The Reasons

Hart Research surveyed more than 2000 drivers in an attempt to explain these pandemic driving behaviors. Many participants in the study admited to texting, checking social media, or shopping online while driving. Others engaged in work-related communications behind the wheel. Of this latter category, many participants felt unable to “mentally stop working.” As the lines between work and personal life blur, these participants felt that their managers now expected them to respond instantly to all work-related communications.

No matter how stressful post-COVID life becomes, distracted driving is never acceptable. Putting that phone on “Do Not Disturb” not only protects the mental health of the driver, but can also save lives.