Don’t Zoom and drive! How distracted driving has increased despite less driving due to COVID-19

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Video conferencing has grown over the past year as more and more people started working from home. As things started opening up, you may have found yourself driving while on a Zoom call.

But be warned…Anything that distracts you from keeping your eyes on the road is a red flag for law enforcement. As April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s a good reminder that Zoom, FaceTime or any video on your phone is not allowed.

Keeping your eyes on the road while driving is enough to worry about. Adding coffee or a text message into your commute can be dangerous.

“Writing a text or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. If you’re traveling 55 miles per hour, that’s like traveling an entire length of a football field with your eyes closed,” said Pennsylvania State Trooper Anthony Petroski.

He said cell phone use is the number one distraction among motorists.

“Now people using Zoom in their vehicles can also be an issue if they are using it as a video call. If they are using it as a phone call for a meeting or a conference through their vehicle’s Bluetooth, that’s perfectly fine,” he said.

In the fall, the National Safety Council (NSC) conducted a survey of more than 2,000 registered drivers ages 25 and up. 46 percent say “demands or pressure from work” leads them to drive distracted.

“If they’re in the middle of a call and they have to go because of time constraint to drive somewhere then they should end the call, excuse themselves and join back when they can,” said PennDOT District 3 Safety Press Officer Kimberly Smith.

According to the NSC, death-related crashes last year spiked 24 percent in the U.S. despite 13 percent fewer miles driven due to the pandemic.

PennDOT says Pennsylvania saw a six percent increase compared to 2019 but it continues to trend downwards with safety improvements and initiatives.

“When you’re behind the wheel, you have one job and that is focusing on driving and to drive safely,” said Smith.  

PennDOT released 2020’s crash fatality statistics, showing 47 fatalities involving distracted drivers. Other crash statistics have not yet been made available.

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