Clark Howard

Around 40% of drivers admit to this frightening bad habit

Perhaps you’ve been there: One hand on the steering wheel and the other on your smartphone, you steal glances at a screen in half-second increments. It’s not that you’re addicted to the latest gaming app – you’re working.

A recent online survey conducted by Harris Poll for Travelers insurance shows that more than four out of 10 drivers fessed up to performing work-related functions on smartphones while behind the wheel.

Study: Four out of 10 admit to driving while doing work-related things on their phones

The survey’s results indicate that many people feel pressure about being available and beholden to their workplaces, even while driving, creating a new kind of danger on the nation’s roads. Work-related communication — either via talk, text or email — was highest among motorists ages 18 to 44, according to the findings.

We may think of drunken driving as the #1 menace on our streets, but the numbers around distracted driving are pretty scary themselves.

A poll conducted by Allstate Insurance found that half of drivers said that they text and drive. Another one by insurer State Farm found that 91% of drivers said that they considered even talking with a passenger a distraction.

More than 3,470 lives were claimed due to distracted driving in 2015, according to statistics furnished by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Taking your eyes off the road for seconds at 55 mph is like driving the  length of a football field blindfolded, the agency said.

The NHTSA defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system.”

Such mundane activities as scanning the radio for your favorite station to unpeeling a banana could be putting you and those you share the road with in harm’s way.

How to curb the urge to drive while distracted

Here are some good pointers to keep in mind, courtesy of some of the nation’s top insurance companies:

  • Use the phone only for emergencies and pull over if you have to, Geico says.
  • Slow down: Distractions often cause drivers to pay less attention to their speed, says Allstate. The insurer touts its Drivewise app as a way to help drivers earn rewards for safe driving.
  • Beware of rubbernecking: Slowing down to look at other drivers or a roadside accident steals our attention from the road, State Farm warns.

Money expert Clark Howard says there are some apps that attempt to put the brakes on texting and driving. "Parents of teen drivers have yet more weapons in their arsenal when it comes to keeping their kids safe behind the wheel," he writes. See his picks for apps that stop drivers from texting.

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