Around 3,350 people were killed in all distraction-related crashes and 382 died in crashes involving cell phone use in the US in 2021, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

However the organization has said smartphones could be used as a tool to actually help reduce distracted driving.

Ian Reagan, Senior Research Scientist at IIHS said phones offered a great defense against distraction with “do not disturb” features that can block incoming calls and notifications while the user is driving and said other apps had the potential to reduce other types of distracted driving, encourage safer speeds and provide basic crash avoidance.

“The biggest advantage that smartphones offer is the speed at which their features can permeate our lives,” he said.

“The in-vehicle technologies that most of my research focuses on can take decades to make their way into the majority of vehicles in the U.S. fleet. In contrast, millions of vehicles instantly gained GPS navigation when Apple and Google rolled out their navigation apps.

“The same thing can happen with safety features. Not too long ago, when the first “do not disturb” apps for driving came out, my colleagues and I saw little point in studying them, as they were not prominent enough for many users to know about them. Then one day Apple changed the initial setup procedure for the iPhone so every new user was asked if they wanted to block calls and notifications automatically whenever they were driving. Not long after, we determined that a disheartening one in five users opted in. But that simple move by Apple opened the door for IIHS and others to start researching how to make the feature more effective and get more people to use it.”

Regan said regulators and safety advocates were beginning to engage with tech companies the way IIHS had always engaged with automakers.

He added: “If the smartphone could become a tool to combat not only device-based distraction but also other types of distraction and unsafe driving, that would be a truly remarkable turnaround.”