Almost 6000 traffic accidents with injuries, which were due to distraction of a motorist, mean 8233 seriously injured and 117 dead. This is the sad balance of the year 2021, the first in which the Federal Statistical Office separately records distraction as the cause of accidents. The number of unreported cases is likely to be even higher.
"Distraction is the most underestimated cause of accidents on our roads," concludes Jörg Kubitzki, safety researcher at the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT) and author of a new study on the subject. It shows that the growing use of modern communication, entertainment and comfort functions in the vehicle increases the risk of accidents by around 50 percent.
Text message writing has doubled
In contrast to the social condemnation of driving while intoxicated, more and more drivers are apparently interpreting the use of technical functions that are dispensable for driving as customary law. "The core of the problem is that although they are aware of the resulting dangers, they do not implement this insight," says Lucie Bakker, Chief Claims Officer of Allianz Versicherungs-AG.
Compared to an earlier study from 2016, calling with a mobile phone on the ear fell from 25 to 16 percent, but writing text messages doubled from eight to 16 percent. As expected, the eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old age group has the highest proportion of black sheep. 30 percent admitted to making calls with a smartphone in their hand, 40 percent used it to enter or read electronic messages.
A comparable increase in risk is also observed by other mobile phone use beyond phone calls, text messages or navigation. "Mobile phone in hand is increasingly being used for gaming, selecting music, looking at pictures or surfing the web," says Christoph Lauterwasser, head of the Allianz Center for Technology. "In our survey of 2016, only six percent affirmed this, in the current study it was already 22 percent."
According to the study, an evaluation of accidents over the past three years shows a drastic increase in the risk of accidents through the use of smartphones and on-board computers. It increases by 32 percent by making calls with a mobile phone in hand, by reading text messages by 56 percent and by writing them by as much as 61 percent. Even the operation of a classic radio with buttons increases the risk of accidents by 34 percent. If it is operated via the on-board computer, this value jumps to 89 percent.
Displays in the cockpit are also distracting
More and more car manufacturers are provoking additional distraction by purposefully banning switches and knobs from the cockpit and replacing them with touch-sensitive screens. If you want to change the radio station, control the climate control or switch on other functions, you have to fight your way through several menus and submenus on the touch screen.