Distracted Driving Statistics & Facts:

Everything
You Should Know

It is a well-known fact that driver error is a major problem and is responsible for the majority of crashes in the United States. In fact, a national study found that “human factors such as speeding, inattention, distraction and performance errors were found to be a factor in more than 92% of all crashes” (Gordon, 2017).

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Every day, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in auto crashes involving a distracted driver. (cdc, 2017)

Even though the risks are clear, a recent survey found that a whopping 88% still use cell phones while driving.

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Distracted driving means that something – anything - is taking your attention away from the road, even if only for a few short seconds. Distractions can be visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), or cognitive (taking your mind off your driving). Clearly, diverting your attention away from your driving can have dire consequences and greatly increase your chances of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.

Texting while driving, for example, is especially dangerous as it combines all three types (visual, manual, cognitive) of distraction (Vegega, Jones, & Monk, 2013). When you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds – those few seconds are long enough to cover the full length a football field if you are driving at 55 mph (NHTSA, 2019).

Distracted Driving Behaviors

The National Safety Council says that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes every year. In addition to deaths related to distracted driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety) estimates nearly 400,000 people were injured in 2015 due to distracted driving. Even with hands-free cell phone devices, talking hands-free still makes drivers much more likely to be involved in a crash than waiting until the drive is over. Dialing a phone is one of the most dangerous distractions. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (2016) found that dialing while driving increased a driver's chance of crashing by 12 times and reading or writing increased the risk of crashing by 10 times. While most of us think that hands-free devices are the optimum safety feature, research actually shows that using hands-free devices is still 4 times more distracting than talking to a passenger. Manual transmission vehicles double the chances of distracted driving crashes caused by food consumption. (Drive-Safely.net, 2019)

Everyone knows that cell phone use and driving is a bad idea, so why do so many of us continue to do so? Even if you don’t engage in texting, looking up directions to your destination or checking the traffic conditions while driving can also be incredibly distracting and extremely unsafe.

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Twenty-five percent of drivers used a cell phone right before being involved in a crash.
(Chicago Tribune, 2017)

Drivers were 12.2 times more likely to crash while driving and dialing a cellphone. According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS, 2016), at any given daylight moment across America approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.

The figure below illustrates the distribution of drivers by age group for total drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2017. Drivers in their 20s make up 23% of drivers in fatal crashes but are 27% of the distracted drivers and 37% of the distracted drivers who were using cell phones in fatal crashes.

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Other Distracted Driving Facts You Should be Aware of:

Cellphones aren’t the only distraction facing drivers. Driving with children in the car, chatting with passengers, eating food, grooming, reaching for a dropped object, swatting at a fly – anything that takes your eyes off the road for even a second or two – is considered a driving distraction.

In a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (2016), driver-related factors (i.e., driver error, impairment, fatigue, and/or distraction) were present in almost 90% of crashes.

It is also important to note that distracted driving in the U.S. may be under-reported because not only do many state crash report forms not have a specific field or code on their forms for certain types of distraction (National Safety Council, 2017), but drivers are often unwilling to report that the reason for their accident is distraction related.

Fatalities due to distracted driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, 2015), driver distraction is a leading factor in fatal driver related crashes and occurs when drivers divert their attention away from activities that are critical for safe driving.

Between 2012-2017, nearly 20,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.

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Of all fatal crashes in 2017, 9% were reported as distraction-affected crashes (NHTSA, 2018). There were a total of 34,247 fatal crashes in 2017 involving 52,274 drivers. Of those, 37,133 fatalities were reported by the NHTSA. Nine percent of the 2017 crashes (2,935) were distraction-related crashes. The NHTSA has reported that 3,166 people were killed in 2017 alone due to driver distraction-affected crashes (NHTSA, 2019).

Distracted Driver Occupant Type

Teens

  • Texting while driving is especially problematic among younger drivers. In 2017 alone, 8% of people killed in teen-involved driving crashes died when teen drivers (those age 15-19) were distracted at the time of the crash.
  • According to NHTSA, young drivers 16- to 24-years-old have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers since 2007.
  • One in three teens who text say they have done so while driving (NHTSA, 2018).
  • More than 58% of teen crashes are due to driver distraction. In fact, a teen driver is 4 times more likely than an adult to get into a car crash when talking or texting on a cell phone.
  • Having a passenger in the car doubles the risk of a teen having an accident due to distraction; with 2 or more passengers, that number rises to 5 times more likely to have an accident.
  • Teens in the 16 to 19 age group are 3 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than any other group; car crashes are, in fact, the number 1 killer of teens in the U.S.
  • For all fatal crashes, 6% of the drivers involved were 15 to 19 years old (3,255 of the 52,274). Sixteen percent of all the distracted drivers using cell phones in fatal crashes were 15 to 19 years old (63 of the 404 distracted fatal crashes due to cellphone use).

Gender

  • Men are more than twice as likely than women to engage in distracting behavior such as watching a video while driving (Consumer Reports, 2017), while women are more likely to fix their appearance (Finder.com, 2018).
  • Men are also more likely than females to drive under the influence, with 3.5% men admitting to this risky behavior versus 2.5% women.
  • In 2017, 60% of distracted drivers in fatal crashes were male.
  • One in three female drivers admitted to taking photos while driving (The Zebra, 2019).

Employees

  • Nearly half (45%) of employees in one survey reported they felt pressured to respond to emails while driving.
  • In the same survey, over a third (38%) of employees said they felt pressure to answer phone calls, while 34% said they felt pressure to respond to a text.
  • In the 18 to 34 age group, 37% of respondents felt a high degree of pressure to respond to work-related messages while driving, compared to 25% of the national average among all age groups (The Zebra, 2019).

Distracted Pedestrians and Accidents Stats

  • A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (2016) found that crash risk increased 10-fold when drivers were visibly angry or crying.
  • Driving with pets can be a distraction, too. In fact, 65% of dog owners state that driving with their pet as a passenger is distracting.
  • Being “lost in thought” is also a major problem when it comes to distracted driving: 62% of those involved in distraction-affected accidents reported this as the cause leading up to their crash.
  • Eating and drinking – particularly messy foods like tacos and hamburgers – contributed to driver distraction related accidents 80% of the time.

Parents

  • While recent studies have found that parents also engage in distracted driving behaviors, other, perhaps far more important studies have found that driving with children is itself one of the greatest distractions of all.
  • Parents with young children were more likely to be distracted while driving (87%) than were adults with no small children (74%).
  • A study by Australian researchers found that children in the car are 12 times more distracting than talking a cell phone.
  • While parents do not intentionally put their children in danger, they do tend to take their eyes off the road more often to tend to their children’s needs.
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Men are more likely to speed, with 31.9% of male drivers reporting they engage in this behavior compared to 28.4% of female drivers who admit to speeding.

Friends In Car With Driver

  • Passengers can be a source of distraction especially for teens - 20% of female and 24% of male teens who crashed said they were distracted by passengers just before the crash occurred (DriveTeam, 2017).
  • Passengers can also be a distraction to drivers when they hand passengers objects such as food, a cellphone, purse, or any other item, and can cause a driver to take his or her hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.

Distracted Pedestrians and Accidents Stats

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT, 2016) found that pedestrian fatalities increased by 492, a 9.0-percent increase. The 2016 pedestrian fatality count (5,987) is the highest number since 1990.
  • The IIHS (2017) reported that since 2009, pedestrian fatalities have risen 46%, with nearly 6,000 people struck and killed in 2016.
  • Distractions, particularly those due to use of electronic devices, are the number three cause of pedestrian fatalities (Active Transportation Alliance, 2018).
  • According to a study published in 2012 by researchers from New York’s Stony Brook University, 60% of people texting while walking veered off course.
  • In 2017, there were 599 nonoccupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, and others) killed in distraction-affected crashes (NHTSA, 2018).
  • In 2017, more than 16% of all traffic deaths were pedestrians (Injury Facts, 2017). The National Safety Council (2018) warns all pedestrians about the dangers of distracted walking, the need to use crosswalks, and the importance of wearing bright and/or reflective clothing at night.
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