The Truth Behind Distracted Driving

How big is the problem? It’s big and getting bigger! Here are some facts:

In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver - an almost 10% increase since 2011.1 Nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving. 1,4

Each day in the United States, over 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.1

Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.1,3 Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of driv­ers who were distracted at the time of the crashes.1

These daunting statistics raise many questions about public safety on our highways. In a study from the National Safety Council, entitled ‘Crashes Involving Cell Phones,’ the challenges of collecting and reporting reliable crash data revealed, through conversations with people who lost loved ones in crashes involving driver cell phone use that, for many, the crash reports did not reflect drivers’ cell phone use - although cell phone involvement was apparent. There is strong evidence to support that under-reporting of driver cell phone use in crashes is resulting in a substantial under-estimation of the magnitude of this public safety threat.Ref. NSC

Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.2
Distracted driving activities

Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, talking and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction, which take the driver’s attention away from driving more frequently and for longer periods than other distractions.3

At 55 mph, the average text takes your eyes off the road long enough to cover a football field. 3

What is being done?

States

Many states are enacting laws—such as banning texting while driving, or using graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers—to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to keep it from occurring. However, the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws on decreasing distracted driving-related crashes requires further study. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety keeps track of such laws.8

A Study of New Hampshire Distracted Driving,’ prepared by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation using an anonymous poll of 520 NH drivers, addressed issues of driving behaviors such as texting, web browsing and making calls without the use of hands-free devices. Other behaviors not commonly considered detrimental to road safety, such as tuning the car radio, changing a CD, conversing with other passengers, interacting with children, personal grooming, eating and drinking, reading driving directions and programming a GPS were also studied, and were most frequent among drivers.

Perhaps the most significant result of the survey was that while Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation provided respondents with an explanation of New Hampshire law, only 12% said they were willing to stop using their mobile devices while driving. Half said they would park first in a safe location, but 28%, including one-third of younger drivers, said they would not change their behavior.

Federal government

On September 30, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving on government business or with government equipment.9

On September 17, 2010, the Federal Railroad Administration banned cell phone and electronic device use of employees on the job.10

On October 27, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted a ban that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.11

In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration banned all hand-held cell phone use by commercial drivers and drivers carrying hazardous materials.12

What are CDC’s research and program activities in this area?

Distracted Driving in the United States and Europe

A 2011 CDC study compared the percentage of distracted drivers in the United States and seven European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Overall, the study found that a higher percentage of U.S. drivers talked on the phone and read or sent emails or texts while driving than drivers in several other European countries.

More

A CDC study analyzed 2011 data on distracted driving, including talking on a cell phone or reading or sending texts or emails behind the wheel.5 The researchers compared the prevalence of talking on a cell phone or texting or emailing while driving in the United States and seven European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Key findings included the following:

Talking on a cell phone while driving

  • 69% of drivers in the United States ages 18-64 reported that they had talked on their cell phone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
  • In Europe, this percentage ranged from 21% in the United Kingdom to 59% in Portugal.

Texting or emailing while driving

  • 31% of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 reported that they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
  • In Europe, this percentage ranged from 15% in Spain to 31% in Portugal.5

Data on distracted driving is extensive and we will provide more information in subsequent blogs, including opinions by the Supreme Court of New Hampshire on accidents involving distracted driving.

We can’t control what other drivers do, but we can be mindful of our OWN driving habits. Don’t engage in activities that take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. Don’t text and drive; don’t use your cell phone. The life you save may be your own!

If you or someone you know has been in an accident involving distracted driving in NH or MA, call the Injury Law Center for a free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys. Our attorneys have been handling motor vehicle accident cases for nearly four decades with successful results. We can tell you if you have a case and can help determine liability in your accident.

Related Pages

Additional Resources

References

  1. National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Distracted Driving: 2013 Data, in Traffic Safety Research Notes. DOT HS 812 132. April 2015, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Washington, D.C.
  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Policy Statement and Compiled FAQs on Distracted Driving. [cited 2016 Feb 23]; Available from:https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety.https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety.
  3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Facts and Statistics. [cited 2016 Feb 23]; Available from: http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html.
  4. National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Distracted Driving: 2012 Data, in Traffic Safety Research Notes. DOT HS 812 012. April 2014, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Washington, D.C.
  5. Mobile device use while driving--United States and seven European countries, MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 2013. 62(10): p. 177-82.
  6. Olsen, E.O., R.A. Shults, and D.K. Eaton, Texting while driving and other risky motor vehicle behaviors among US high school students. Pediatrics, 2013. 131(6): p. e1708-15.
  7. Kann, L., et al., Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance- United States, 2013. 2014, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Atlanta, GA. p. 172.
  8. Insurance Institutes for Highway Safety. Distracted Driving: Cellphones and texting. February 2016 [cited 2016 Feb 24]; Available from: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/laws/cellphonelaws.
  9. Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging while Driving(Executive Order 13513). 2009: 3 CFR. p. 3.
  10. Federal Railroad Administration. Restrictions on Railroad Operating Employees: Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Electronic Devices. 2010; Available from:https://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L03256.
  11. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Limiting the Use of Wireless Communication Devices. 2010 [cited 2016 Feb 23]; Available from:https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/rulemaking/2010-23861.
  12. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers: Restricting the Use of Cellular Phones. 2011 [cited Feb 23 2016]; Available from:http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=PHMSA-2010-0227-0009.
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