For many, driving is a daily activity, not requiring much thought or consideration. However, the sad reality is that there are 3,287 deaths each day due to fatal car crashes. On average, 9 of these daily fatalities are related to distracted driving. The sad thing? These deaths all stem from a cause that is completely preventable.
Distracted driving in a complex issue within today’s society, affecting drivers across all age groups. In an effort to bring awareness to the issue, April has been deemed Distracted Driving Awareness Month to remind the public that all of these deaths and injuries are completely preventable. After reading these statistics, check out the latest technology innovation for new teen drivers: Focus by TeenDrive!
Below, we delve into the scary facts and truths behind this epidemic, digging into the issues contributing factors, the large role cell phones play in this problem, and the science behind cell phone distractions.
The Numbers Behind Distracted Driving
- Distracted driving accounts for approximately 25% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities.
- At the time of fatal crashes, teens have been the largest age group that reported being distracted while driving.
- Driver distraction is reported to be responsible for more than 58% of teen crashes.
- In 2015, 391,000 injuries were caused in distracted driving related accidents.
- In that same year, distracted driving was cited as a major factor in 3,477 traffic deaths.
- 9 people in the U.S. are killed each day as a result of crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
- Distracted driving has been called an American epidemic and is completely preventable.
- Since there is no way to test for distracted driving after an accident occurs, it’s widely believed that the number of crashes, injuries, and fatalities caused by distracted driving are vastly under reported.
- It takes only 3 seconds after a driver’s attention has been diverted from the road for a crash to occur.
- Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the U.S.
- 16 to 19 year-olds are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than any other age group.
- Americans are driving more miles now than ever before, resulting in more traffic accidents and fatalities.
- Distracted driving is commonly referred to as the, “new drunk driving”.
- Driving distracted is compared to drunk driving since it follows the same psychological pattern: when drivers get away with driving distracted, they then continue to practice this bad habit until a crash occurs or until they are caught and suffer consequences.
- Distracted driving is seen as a tricky problem as it’s a temporary one that is hard to proactively predict and catch.
- Over 80% of drivers admit to blatantly hazardous behavior while driving, such as changing clothes, steering with a foot, painting nails, or even shaving.
- While the number of drinking and driving fatalities has decreased in teens, the number of traffic fatalities in the age group has not, much attributed to distracted driving.
Types of Driver Distractions
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identified three types of driver distractions. The first is visual tasks, such as something as simple as checking a navigation system, which causes a driver to divert his or her attention from the road.
- The second driver distraction is a manual task, which is something that requires a driver to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel, such as reaching for a drink or cell phone.
- The third driving distraction type is cognitive tasks, causing a driver’s mind and focus to wander to something besides the task of driving.
Distracted Driving Contributing Factors
- Adjusting both audio and climate controls while driving—for example, changing the radio station or bumping up the temperature—account for 2% of traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving.
- Other occupants in a vehicle demand your attention, taking those eyes and mind off the road. For that reason, driving with companions is a major distraction that leads to 5% of traffic fatalities in relation to distracted driving.
- When a teen driving has an additional passenger with them, the risk of them getting into a fatal car crash doubles. If two or more passengers are present, the odds are five times as likely.
- Things outside of your car cause distracted driving, too. 7% of distracted driving prompted fatalities are caused by people, objects, or events going on outside of a vehicle that catch a driver’s attention.
- Somewhat surprisingly, only 1% of distracted driving crashes relate to lighting or putting out a cigarette while navigating a car.
- The largest cause of distracted driving crashes—coming in at 62%—is a driver being lost in thought or letting their mind wander. Keeping your mind on the road is just as important as keeping your eyes on it.
- 80% of car crashes are attributed to a driver being distracted or not paying attention.
- Munching on a snack or sipping coffee is a cause behind distracted driving accidents, too, accounting for 2% of them.
- When a driver is listening to a conversation or music, the brain power he or she dedicates to driving decreases by 40%.
- 20% of drivers say they’ve styled their hair from behind the wheel.
- Studies show that having to go to the bathroom and holding it while driving can negatively affect your safety, as it’s highly distracting.
- Unsurprisingly, cell phone use is the second largest cause of distracted driving. 14% of distracted driving related deaths comes from cell phone use (as of 2015).
- Eating, reading, and applying makeup all increase the likelihood of a collision by two to three times.
- Driving with kids in the car causes parents to take their eyes off the road for an average of 3 minutes and 22 seconds during a 16 minute car ride. That’s 21% of the total time behind the wheel.
- 65% of dog owners state that they’ve been distracted while driving with their pet as a passenger.
- Advanced technology in vehicles contributes to distracted driving. 53% of drivers believe that if car manufacturers incorporate “infotainment” dashboards and hands-free technology into vehicles, it must be safe to use.
- While multitasking technology is certainly convenient, it does not guarantee safety, and it certainly contributes to the distracted driving epidemic.
- The NHTSA found that those who eat or drink while driving are 80% more likely to get into an accident.
- Other foods that are said to be major distractions are hot soups, tacos or any food that can become easily unassembled, burgers as they drip grease, chocolate which easily melts, and soda or carbonated drinks which can fizz into a driver’s nose.
Cell Phones and Distracted Driving
- Approximately 660,000 drivers use their cell phones while driving during daylight hours, creating a large potential for crashes and fatalities.
- Sending or reading a text causes drivers, on average, to take their eyes off the road for 5 seconds. When driving at 55 miles per hour, that means that drivers travel approximately the length of a football field with their eyes closed.
- According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes annually.
- Texting while driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving under the influence of alcohol is.
- 1 out of every 4 traffic crashes that occur in the U.S. are caused by cell phone usage.
- Each day, 11 teens die as a result of texting and driving.
- While a AAA poll reveals that 94% of teen drivers acknowledge the vast dangers of texting and driving, 35% of those polled admitted to still committing the act.
- The CDC reports that teens who reported frequent texting while driving also proved to be more likely to ride with a driver who’d been drinking, more likely to drink and drive, and less likely to wear a seatbelt.
- A quarter of teens report that they answer a text once or more every time they drive.
- 20% of teens and 10% of parents cite that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while they’re behind the wheel.
- An Everquote survey found that 96% of respondents cited themselves as a safe driver, yet 56% of respondents admitted to using their phones while driving. (Fortune)
- The New York Times cited cell phone apps as a reason behind the increase of distracted driving, as apps like Snapchat record the speed of a vehicle, the navigation app Waze rewards drivers for reporting traffic conditions in the moment, and games like Pokemon Go encourages drivers to search for virtual creatures along roads and highways.
- Texting while driving results in 400% more time with a driver’s eyes off the road.
- Texting while driving increases the chance of an accident by 23 times, even if it’s an accident caused by another driver.
- A poll shows that 77% of adults and 55% of teenage drivers believe that they can easily manage texting while simultaneously navigating the road.
- An NHTSA survey showed that only 1 in 5 teens believes that texting impacts their personal driving performance.
- Teens that text while driving are proven to veer out of the lane during 10% of their total drive time.
- A University of Utah study found that the reaction time of a teen using a cell phone is equal to that of a 70-year-old woman who is not using a hand-held device.
- 82% of American teens have a cell phone. 52% of these teens note that they talk on the phone while driving and 32% text on the road.
- A “fear of missing out” or “FOMO” is believed to be one of the reasons that it’s so hard to resist texting while driving. This is anxiety surrounding the idea that an exciting or interesting event may be happening that you can be a part of by checking social media or text messaging.
- 28% say that they’re afraid of missing something important while driving, so they end up using their phone.
- Drivers talking on the phone while behind the wheel are 2.2 times more likely to crash.
- Drivers are 12.2 times more likely to crash while dialing a phone.
- 43% of drivers say they text and drive because they want to connect with friends, families, and colleagues.
- In a CBS survey, a third of respondents stated that they use their phone while driving out of habit.
- 27% of respondents reported that they text and drive because they felt as though others expected them to answer their phones instantaneously.
- Consumer Reports found that 8% of survey respondents admitted to watching a video on their phone while driving. (Consumer Reports)
- There is no difference in the cognitive distraction between using a handheld or hands-free device while behind the wheel.
- Hands-free devices aren’t as safe as you’d think. For 27 seconds after using one of these devices, you will remain distracted, even as you try to get back into “driving” mode.
The Science Behind Distracted Driving
- Founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, David Greenfield, cited that one reason it’s so hard to stay away from electronic devices while driving is because of smartphones’ addictive nature.
- Our brains instinctively respond to the alerts our phones send us that signal incoming messages or social media updates, making it harder to resist the urge to use your smartphone while driving.
- An incoming text, email, or social media update on our smartphones results in an increase of dopamine to the brain, which is a chemical that attributes to the feeling of arousal, leading to a compulsion to check your smartphone, even if doing so will knowingly put you in danger.
- CNN cites that experts compare the pleasure that comes from using a smartphone to that experienced during eating, drinking, or sex.
- Each time an individual operates their phone while behind the wheel without a suboptimal outcome, it reinforces the idea that it’s safe to do so and that that person can successfully multitask that way again and again in the future, according to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s distracted driving research lab director, Despina Stavrinos.
Distracted Driving Laws
- While many states are enacting laws against texting and driving, the effectiveness of these laws requires further study. (CDC)
- 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia had banned drivers from using hand-held phones as of June 2017.
- As of June 2017, 47 states and the District of Columbia had banned texting while driving.
- Many states have adopted graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers to mitigate the risk of distracted driving and of new drivers having passengers in the car with them.
Distracted Driving Consequences
- There are a range of consequences associated with distracted driving. One includes something obvious, such as getting in a collision, leading to personal injuries or death or harming someone else.
- Another potential consequence of distracted driving is being ticketed or fined, especially if things like cell phone usage has been banned in a given state.
- If an accident occurs as a result of distracted driving and another driver or passenger involved is killed or seriously injured, more serious criminal charges could be pressed against the driver that caused the accident.
- Distracted driving that leads to accidents may result in higher insurance premiums.
- In 2012, a Massachusetts teen was convicted of homicide as a result of a texting and driving accident, leading to a fatality. The teen served a year in jail.
- In 2016, a 17-year-old in Anchorage, Alaska was sentenced to a year in prison for criminally negligent homicide after killing a 27-year-old mother of two in a distracted-driving collision.
- The median fine for a first-time texting and driving offense is $100.
- In Alaska, texting and driving can result in a whopping $10,000 fine.
- In recent years, there has been much debate over whether or not cell phone providers should be held liable in cases against distracted driving that involve cell phones where legal action has been taken.
- Suits against Apple have been filed involving a highway crash in Texas that killed two and paralyzed a seven-year-old boy and in another case that involved a California driver using FaceTime who crashed into another vehicle and killed a five-year-old girl.
- In 2011, a California woman was sentenced to six years in prison after killing a 23-year-old driver, colliding with her car at 85 miles per hour because she was distracted using her cell phone.
Distracted Driving Campaigns
- There have been many campaigns to reduce distracted driving nationwide. One of them is AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, asking drivers to pledge not to drive distracted.
- An AT&T study revealed that most cell phone users interact with an average of five people each day on their mobile device. 81% of people studied said they would reduce or stop using their cell phone while driving if asked by one of their “top five” that they communicate with daily.
- 70% of those surveyed noted that they would download an app to block smartphone notifications if asked to do so by a member of their “top five” people they communicate with daily.
- The Huffington Post reported that in 2017, there was a sharp increase in requests for business presentations that asked employees to sign a pledge not to drive distracted. (Huffington Post)
- The automotive and tech industries are both working to use technology in order to mitigate distracted driver dangers.
- Many newer vehicles possess advanced safety features, including automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistant.
- NHTSA aims to reduce distracted driving on America’s roads by educating citizens about its dangers and partnering with state and local police to enforce laws against the issue.
- The End Distracted Driving Campaign (End DD) has 700 volunteer speakers that have given talks to those all over the country about the dangers of distracted driving since 2012.
- Back in 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a campaign to raise awareness surrounding distracted driving and to reduce the number of fatalities from the problem.
- Massive campaigns including television, radio, internet campaigns, and billboards have been launched across the company for a number of years to mitigate distracted driving.
- Campaigns that have conducted research on feelings around distracted driving have found that younger drivers find distracted driving to be a “selfish” act.
- The Road to Zero initiative was created by the National Safety Council, in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2016 with the mission to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2050.
As you can tell, distracted driving is a complex issue that has demanded the attention of those across the country. Don’t become a statistic—fight against distracted driving in order to keep the roads safe and to set a good example for your teen driver!