Distracted Driving: A Serious Problem
August 10, 2011
Everyday, more than 15 people are killed and over 1,000 more are injured in motor vehicle collisions involving a distracted driver.1 Distracted driving, or driving while performing another activity which shifts your attention from operating a motor vehicle, is classified in three main categories: visual (taking your eyes of the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking your mind off what you are doing).
Common activities which cause distracted driving include eating, reading a map or other material, writing a note, personal grooming, adjusting the car stereo, using a cell phone or in-vehicle navigation device. But according to the US Department of Transportation, texting and driving is the very likely the most dangerous activity, because it involves all three forms of distraction.2
Here are some alarming statistics about distracted driving3:
- Over 5,400 people were killed and 448,000 people were injured in crashes which involved a distracted driver in 2009.
- Of those injured or killed in 2009, use of a cell phone was a major contributing factor in almost 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries.
- The proportion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of a fatal crash has increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.
A recent CDC study examined the frequency of cell phone use and texting among drivers in the United States. Results included4:
- 25% of drivers reported that they talked on their cell phones while driving “regularly or fairly often.”
- 75% of drivers ages 18 to 29 reported talking on their cell phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days, while nearly 40% reported talking on the phone and driving “regularly” or “fairly often.”
- Nearly 1 in 10 drivers reported texting or e-mailing while driving “regularly or fairly often.”
- Over half (52%) of drivers ages 18-29 reported texting or e-mailing while driving at least once in the last 30 days, and more than a quarter report texting or e-mailing “regularly” or “fairly often” while driving.
Although many states and municipalities have enacted laws5 to curtail drivers from using cell phones while operating a motor vehicle, the prevalence and associated danger distracted driving continues to grow. I encourage all motorists to take adequate precautions when using cell phones while driving, such as using a hands free device, accepting calls only when absolutely necessary, and limiting the duration of a call to a bare minimum. And no one should try to text and drive.
1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts: Distracted Driving 2009. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, September 2010. Publication no. DOT-HS-811-379. Available from http://www.distraction.gov/
2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Statistics and Facts about Distracted Driving. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2011.
3. NHTSA Publication no. DOT-HS-811-379.
4. Porter Novelli. (2010). HealthStyles 2010 Survey. Unpublished raw data. Washington, DC: Adam Burns.
5. For example, in Washington State effective July 2010, it is primary offense for drivers to talk on a cell phone without using a hands-free device. RCW 46.61.667. Texting and driving is strictly prohibited by statute. RCW 46.61.668.