Risk of accidents: That’s how dangerous texting is while driving – Economy

Young people make less phone calls, preferring to text each other. This has a dangerous side effect: more and more drivers read or write text messages or Whatsapp while driving, drastically increasing their risk of an accident.

Allianz found out. Together with the Society for Innovative Market Research, the Munich insurance company asked 1,202 people about their driving behavior and compared the result with a previous study from 2016. The disturbing result: The number of drivers who engaged in text messaging while driving increased by almost a third between 2016 and 2021 to 24 percent. “Anyone who writes messages while driving has a more than 50 percent higher accident risk,” says Christoph Lauterwasser, head of the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT).

In 2016, using the phone was still the greatest danger. But now more and more cars have hands-free devices – and fewer calls are made. Text messaging, on the other hand, is becoming an ever-increasing risk. There are also devices that are supposed to make driving safer and more comfortable: on-board computers are also a significant source of accidents.

In 2016, only a third of all those surveyed had a vehicle with an on-board computer, by 2021 this figure has risen to almost 50 percent. Half of those surveyed stated that they felt distracted when operating the on-board computer. According to the study, this increases the risk of accidents by 44 percent. If the car radio is operated via the on-board computer, the accident risk increases by as much as 89 percent.

In addition, the digitization of driving has a dangerous side effect. Because many new cars are now automatically changing lanes or braking if a collision is imminent, drivers feel safer when fooling around with their smartphones.

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No understanding of the danger

“Having a smartphone while driving is now part of the norm, but at the same time the possibilities for distraction in today’s vehicles are increasing,” says Allianz board member Lucie Bakker. “The core of the problem is that many drivers are aware of the danger, but do not transfer this insight to their everyday driving.”

Allianz sees it positively that since 2021 distraction as the cause of accidents has been recorded by the police. That’s why there are better numbers for distraction-based accidents. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 8,233 people were injured as a result of distraction in 2021 and 117 died.

This corresponds to five percent of the 2,562 traffic deaths in 2021. The number of such accidents rose again in the first ten months of 2022 by 23.5 percent. However, Allianz assumes that the number of unreported cases is high.

Young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are particularly at risk. 30 percent of them stated that they used the phone in their hands to make calls while driving. In comparison, the proportion of respondents in all age groups is 16 percent. 40 percent of younger people admitted to checking text messages while driving. It is forbidden to pick up the smartphone while driving – regardless of whether you are on the phone or typing a short message. A fine of 100 euros and a point in Flensburg are currently threatened.

A remedy against the use of mobile phones would be digital driver monitoring, for example. There are systems that monitor the driver’s eyes, face or head via infrared scanning and emit a warning tone in the event of deviations. But only 39 percent of respondents want this type of driver control. Higher fines and longer penalties, on the other hand, are more acceptable to those surveyed.

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“There is still a need to convince drivers about driver monitoring,” says Lauterwasser. “It shouldn’t be about paternalism, it’s about support.” His hope: “Even the feedback can contribute to a positive change in behavior.”

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