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Survey: 86 percent of drivers support hands-free legislation

Nationwide encouraging states to pass hands-free laws amid growing concerns about distracted driving

A new study1 from Nationwide finds that Americans overwhelmingly support new laws to curb distracted driving. As part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Nationwide is renewing its call for all 50 states to enact hands free-primary enforcement laws. This will enable law enforcement to ticket motor vehicle operators who are operating mobile handheld devices behind the wheel.

“Despite fewer people on roads and highways during the pandemic more people are dying in fatal crashes,” said Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker. “While it isn’t practical to remove every distraction from motor vehicles, making it a primary offense for the use of handheld devices will reduce crashes and save lives. We know hands-free primary enforcement legislation works. A 2018 analysis2 showed that states that enact this type of legislation experienced a 15% decrease in auto crash related fatalities two years after the enactment of this type of law. Six states in that same analysis saw a decrease of more than 20% in fatality rates.”

Ohio became the 47th state with a primary enforcement texting law and joins 25 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands in expanding that prohibition to other handheld uses of devices while driving. 

With 25 states without such laws, Nationwide is committed to working with lawmakers in those states to pass similar distracted driving laws to make roads safer for all. 

Drivers are overwhelmingly supportive of Hands-Free legislation 
88% of consumers say they support legislation to address distracted driving. 86% support legislation in their state that would prohibit drivers from holding their phones while driving to talk, text or for other purposes except in emergency situations.

Though less than half of states have hands-free laws on the books, most drivers think their state has already enacted some form of hands-free legislation:

  • Almost two-thirds (64%) believe there are already laws for distracted driving in their state
  • Nearly two-thirds of drivers (61%) rely on handsfree technology while driving

Nationwide is working with consumer groups like Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety to get comprehensive hands-free legislation passed in all 50 states.

“Distracted driving is a major contributor to the alarmingly high death toll on our roadways. In 2020, it was a factor in 3,142 crash fatalities – and most likely more,” said Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). “Nationwide’s new findings clearly demonstrate the public’s overwhelming concern about device use behind the wheel and their support for acting now.  Lawmakers must address this public safety threat by enacting commonsense restrictions. Advocates stands with Nationwide to eliminate distracted driving.”

Distracted drivers are a top concern 
Data is revealing that drivers are more reckless. Nationwide’s SmartRide mobile app shows drivers are distracted by their phone up to 9 times during a typical 20-mile commute3.

“There are more distractions in the car than ever before, and most of them involve handheld devices,” said Beth Riczko, president of personal lines insurance. “What’s really alarming is that while two-thirds (66%) say holding their phone to talk, text, or use an app while driving is dangerous, half (51%) report having done this in the past 6 months.”

In late 2020, Nationwide introduced an experience that provides customized feedback on phone distractions and it’s helping to reduce distractions on our roadways. Through the SmartRide mobile program, there has been nearly a 10 percent reduction in everyday hand-held distraction among these drivers. Providing feedback on phone use while behind the wheel increases driver’s awareness on the frequency of this behavior and reduces distracted driving crashes.

“An earlier Nationwide consumer survey4 revealed of those currently using telematics, 78% participate in a telematics program to save money on auto insurance; 38% participate to become a better driver,” said Riczko.

Consumers interested in information about the status of Hands-Free Legislation in their state and how they can advocate for these laws should contact their state legislator.

To learn more about SmartRide’s phone distraction feature, talk to your independent insurance agent.

Nationwide efforts to combat Distracted Driving

For nearly 100 years, Nationwide has been a proponent for making roads safer. Efforts include:

  • Advocating to enact hands-free legislation in all 50 states. These laws require drivers to only use hands-free mobile phone technology while operating a motor vehicle
  • Working with safety groups like Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and state coalitions across the country to raise awareness on the dangers of distracted driving
  • Partnering with insurtech companies like Cambridge Mobile Telematics and NoCell to make distracted driving technology available to drivers to help correct dangerous driving behaviors
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1Survey Methodology: Edelman Data & Intelligence conducted a national online survey of 1,000 adults (ages 18+) US car-owning consumers on behalf of Nationwide. The study was fielded from March 4 to March 11, 2022 and has an overall margin of error of ±3% at the 95% confidence level.

2Ohio Distracted Driving Task Force Report

3Distractions measured include holding the phone to text, holding the phone to make a call and overall cell phone handling.

4Nationwide Agency Forward Telematics survey – Aug. 2021