A new study finds that drivers taking selfies in moving vehicles is a threat to safety for all. Colorado ranks ninth in the list of the top 10 states with the most Instagram posts driving-related hashtags.
And, in related news, the Colorado Department of Transportation has launched a new campaign to reduce distracted driving: “A Killer Habit.”
Uploading While Driving
In an article for SFGate about the study, Mike Moffit wrote that in addition to taking selfies, drivers are uploading the photos to Instagram and other social media, checking posts, and looking at the comments and likes — all while driving:
Obviously, their ability to take evasive action, react quickly to a hazard or even stay in the correct lane while distracted can be significantly impaired.
According to the study, in addition to Colorado, the states with the largest number of drivers taking selfies behind the wheel are Hawaii (No. 1), and Nevada, followed by California, Wyoming, Oregon, Florida, Washington, and Arizona. Vermont winds up at No. 10. Colorado also shows up, at number 10, on the top 10 list of “Which States Like Instagram Posts with Driving-Related Hashtags the Most?”
Instagram Posts Analyzed
Conducted by Auto Insurance Center (AIC), the study analyzed 70,000 Instagram posts from a five-year period, all of them with hashtags related to driving, including: #drivingselfie, #selfiewhiledriving, #hopeidontcrash, #ihopeidontcrash, #drivingtowork, #drivinghome, and #drivingtoschool.
AIC also analyzed the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Administration for a graphic, “Percentage of U.S. Drivers Involved in Fatal Accidents While Using Cell Phones, by Age.” It also referred to data from ATT’s “Smartphone Use Behind the Wheel” survey, the NHTSA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the Highway Loss Data Institute.
Alarmingly, the rate of driver selfie Instagram posts is increasing. There was a 58% jump in the number of posts from 2012 to 2013. But the increase from 2014 to 2015 was the greatest — 80% — and in the first few months of 2016, there have been 57% as many posts as in all of 2015. “At this rate, 2016 will far outpace 2015 (or any past year) when it comes to Instagramming while driving,” the study said.
Distracted Driving Crashes in Colorado
Distracted driving caused more than 15,000 vehicle accidents in Colorado last year. But, as CDOT spokesman Sam Cole writes in a press release, these numbers are probably under-reported, because there is no quick test (like a breathalyzer for DUI) to determine if a driver was distracted at the time of a crash.
The AIC study found that snapping and posting selfies while driving can be even more dangerous than talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. And if a driver takes a video — which can be as much as 60 seconds long — the danger increases, as the driver’s eyes are not focused on the road for an even longer time.
Killer Habit Video
To deter distracted driving, CDOT will be sharing a Killer Habit video with regional safety partners. This week it will begin to get the word out via ads in movie theaters, online videos, and ads on Pandora audio, video, and digital platforms. The department will also run audio spots on local radio during traffic updates, asking Coloradans to avoid interacting with their phones while driving. You can download the Killer Habit video from the Drop the Distraction campaign.
Meanwhile, AIC urges drivers to play it safe on the road by placing cell phones out of reach, like in the back seat. If a driver needs to use the phone, he or she can pull over. The study also suggests drivers can download apps that lock their phones while the car is moving.
Colorado State Patrol Chief Scott Hernandez says:
Similar to alcohol, using a cell phone while driving impairs your ability to react to changing road conditions. Even if you consider yourself an exemplary driver, distracted driving affects your ability to respond to immediate road hazards and other drivers. We’re seeing more and more crashes involving distracted driving.