Distracted Driving May Cause 30% Of Crashes

By Danny King July 21, 2011

As much as 30 percent of recent car crashes involved someone who was distracted by using a cell phone, texting or some other activity that pulled the driver's attention away from the road, according to a recent report. Drivers reported being distracted on the road between 25 percent and 50 percent of the time behind the wheel, according to the 50-page study, which was conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). About two-thirds of the drivers reported using a cell phone while driving sometime during the past year, with about half of those people using a mobile phone regularly. About an eighth of the drivers said they've texted while driving.

Distract Driving Crashes -- iStock.jpgBoth state and federal governments are looking to cut automobile fatalities by either enacting or increasing penalties associated with texting, or talking without a hands-free device behind the wheel. Distracted-driving accidents killed almost 5,500 people and injured another half-million people in the U.S. in 2009. About one in six fatal accidents that year was caused by a distracted driver. About two-thirds of the states have texting bans, while nine states have outlawed the act of talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving. New York was the first state -- in 2001 -- to ban driving while holding a cell phone.

The GHSA report broke down driving distraction types into four categories -- visual, auditory, manual (i.e. operating something other than the steering wheel) and cognitive (i.e. thinking about something other than driving) -- and said most incidents involve more than one type of distraction. For instance, activities such as changing the radio station, eating or drinking, or addressing children in the back seat counted as distractions. The study also said laws banning use of hand-held phones behind the wheel cut such use in half when first enacted, though some people eventually returned to the habit.

Earlier this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that Connecticut and New York State crackdowns on handheld mobile-phone use and texting behind the wheel cut distracted driving by at least a third, indicating that increased law enforcement and public-service announcements likely decrease traffic fatalities stemming from distracted driving. In Syracuse, New York, reported instances of driving while holding a cell phone or texting fell by more than 30 percent during periods of stepped up enforcement, while holding a cell phone behind the wheel and texting while driving fell by 57 percent and more than 70 percent, respectively, in Hartford, Connecticut, NHTSA said in a statement Monday. Syracuse and Hartford police each issued almost 10,000 tickets during the stepped-up enforcement periods.

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brn says: 12:09 PM, 07.22.11

Before texting or cell phones, I suspect more than 30% of crashes were caused by distracted driving.


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