According to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 391,000 people sustained injuries in a single year related to distracted driving accidents. Around 3,477 people died in distracted driving crashes in one year in the U.S., making it a public health crisis.
#1. The Impact
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 1 in 5 people who died in a crash involving a distracted driver in 2019 weren’t actually in vehicles. They were riding a bike, walking, or generally outside a vehicle.
Among deadly crashes involving distracted drivers in 2019, a higher percentage of drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 were involved than drivers 21 and older.
Around 39% of high school student drivers surveyed in 2019 said they’d texted or emailed within the past thirty days while behind the wheel.
Distracted driving is characterized as anything taking the attention of the driver away from what they’re doing.
You can’t drive safely unless driving itself has your full attention. Anything you do outside of driving while behind the wheel increases the risk of being in an accident.
#2. Three Types of Driving Distractions
There are three main types of distractions. There are visual distractions, manual distractions, and cognitive distractions.
Visual driving distractions are things that take your eyes off the road. This could include looking at a car accident, turning your head to check on your kids in the backseat, looking at your GPS for directions, or looking at something that grabs your attention outside of your window.
Manual driving distractions are things that lead you to take your hands off the wheel, like eating or drinking, applying makeup, or adjusting something in the vehicle.
Cognitive distractions take your mind off what you’re doing. If you’re driving after an argument with someone, or you’re leaving work following a stressful day, these are cognitive distractions.
#3. States Are Implementing Laws to Deal with Distracted Driving
Quite a few states have been enacting laws that are meant to prevent distracted driving. These laws include prohibiting texting while driving, hands-free laws, and also laws that limit the number of passengers who can ride with teen drivers.
The graduated licensing system is part of this. The graduated driver licensing system helps new drivers get experience in lower-risk situations. There are usually five components of these systems, and one specifically addresses distracted driving, which is the restriction on younger passengers for teen drivers.
Some states have also installed rumble strips on highways that alert inattentive, drowsy, or distracted drivers they’re about to go off the road.
The U.S Department of Transportation also released the National Roadway Safety Strategy in 2022, which is a way to prevent distracted driving by supporting vehicle technology systems that detect it.
#4. Even Though We Know It’s Bad, We Do It Anyway
The vast majority of drivers know that using a phone while they’re driving is dangerous. In a recent study from Farmers Insurance, 87% of drivers said they recognize it’s a bad thing, but more than half of those drivers admit to making calls while driving. Forty-five percent of respondents in that survey admitted to sending, receiving, or reading a text message while behind the wheel.
Even though we realize there’s a risk, our phones can create a strong temptation that pulls our focus off driving.
Thirty-two percent of Millennial and Gen Z drivers said they’d participated in video chats while driving, and 28% said they’d posted or viewed social media. Twenty-seven percent admitted to playing video games, and 24% said they’d streamed videos.
#5. Most Drivers Are Distracted At Least Once a Day
According to data from the Nationwide SmartRide program, more than 70% of drivers are distracted at least once a day. The average participant in the SmartRide program takes their eyes off the road too many times for too long.
According to the same data, the most distracted time window for drivers is between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The most distracted day of the week is Friday, while Tuesday is the least distracted.
The average speed at which a distraction occurs is 45 mph, and the average screen tapping event lasts for six seconds. Handheld phone calls last for an average of 160 seconds.
Finally, according to data from Allstate, chronically distracted drivers are 70% more likely to be in an accident than the average driver. Around 11% of all accidents occur within a minute of a driver using a phone.