Shopping while driving and pot use are newest road hazards

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As if texting and driving wasn't dangerous enough, there's drive-by shopping for the holiday season | Larry Edsall photo

Even if you don’t live in a climate where winter weather makes driving more dangerous this time of year, there are a couple of new trends that can jeopardize your safety on the road, and it doesn’t matter if the vehicle you’re driving is a classic, a showroom-new late model or a used-car beater:

“Crashes are up by as much as 6 percent in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared with neighboring states that haven’t legalized marijuana for recreational use,” the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports in its most recent Status Report newsletter.

A previous study by the IIHS showed that crashes increased by more than 5 percent as states after legalization of marijuana. Insurance claims related to the use of pot increased nearly 13 percent in Colorado and by nearly 10 percent in Washington.

Cannabis (AKA marijuana) | Oakland Museum of California photo

During weekend roadside surveys by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and the IIHS revealed that drivers were more likely to test positive for marijuana than for alcohol. It also found that very few of those who had been drinking had a child in their vehicles, but among pot users, 14 percent had child passengers.

If you think you’re safe because you live in a state that hasn’t legalized marijuana, don’t feel too good, because there’s another new road hazard that may not be  limited geographically. It’s “drive-by shopping.”

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“One third of Americans who have shopped on their mobile devices admit they have done so while driving,” according to a recent Harris Poll and reported by Root Insurance, which claims to be “the nation’s first licensed insurance carrier powered entirely by mobile and founded on the principle that car insurance rates should be based on how you drive, not who you are.”

And now that we’re in the holiday shopping season, the shopping-while-driving dangers increase.

“More than 8 out of 10 Americans age 18-44 who have shopped on their mobile device while driving admit to doing so during the holiday season,” the survey revealed. Actually, the percentage was 87 percent, nearly 9 out of 10.

“Distracted driving increasingly causes more auto accidents,” the insurer added. In response to the Harris survey, Root said it will offer a 10 percent discount to those who avoid mobile-device use while driving.

Root employs an app that uses smartphone technology to understand driving behavior by “leveraging sensors and telematics data in a smartphone” and “can recognize unusual phone patters such as when and how frequently someone is engaging with their smartphone while driving.”

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

1 COMMENT

  1. Morons are the problem, not phones, marijuana, alcohol, online sales, high end stereos, or auto-tech.
    Morons, plain and simple. There’s a time and place for pretty much everything, but behind the wheel the ONLY activity must be driving.
    I learned to drive in the early ’70’s, and it was impressed upon me that the operation of a motor vehicle is a primary activity all on it’s own, requiring one’s full attention.
    I have safely navigated the world’s roads for over 40 years, from Indiana dirt farm tracks at 5mph to European/ Montana highways at 140mph (for 30-40 minutes at a time).
    At NO time was I doing anything but driving, and although I have been hit several times, hospitalized a couple, I am proud that I have never been the cause of, nor at fault in any motor vehicle contact. They’re not "accidents"- dumb-assedness and failures of attention cause unintended vehicular contact (if you ran the light/sign, as has happened to me, it’s YOUR fault).
    It has long been known that, no matter what pop-sci says, human beings absolutely suck at multitasking. Period. Argue with the Harvard psych profs if you will, you’re still wrong.
    I drive a 2004 Pontiac GTO (Aussie Holden Monaro) with a built aftermarket 6+ litre and 6spd manual year-round in Fargo, ND. I use real, rated snow tires when necessary, keep the traction control on, and watch the eff out.

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