By MIMI KIRK, City Lab
Earlier this year, the driver analytics company Zendrive found that an appalling 88 percent of people use their mobile phones while driving, and a cursory look around the roads will probably confirm that figure. Researchers point to distracted driving as a main culprit of a disturbing trend: After falling for decades, the number of fatalities from motor vehicles has climbed for the last two years.
Recent statistics for pedestrian deaths for teenagers show a similar regression: The number of fatalities for those under 19 has decreased over the past two decades, but since 2013 has risen by 13 percent for 12 to 19-year-olds. Media accounts are often quick to blame kids wearing headphones or video-chatting when drivers are actually at fault. When a 14-year-old Philadelphia girl on her way to cheerleader practice was struck by a distracted driver, one local TV report opened its story with the fact that she was Facetiming with a friend while in a marked crosswalk. The driver was later charged with aggravated assault.
Zendrive’s new study focuses on the behavior of drivers around schools. Using sensors in phones, the company measures whether users are texting, making calls, and otherwise fiddling with their phones while the car is moving. It also analyzes rapid acceleration and hard braking. Based on driver behavior in the vicinity of 75,000 public schools in 2,222 counties, Zendrive then ranked the safest schools, counties, and states. (The U.S. has close to 100,000 public schools and a little over 3,000 counties.)