Drivers, Here’s Another Good Reason to Put Down the Cell Phone

If you needed any more reason to put down the cell phone and focus on your driving, please read on. Driver distraction is a major contributor to vehicle crashes, including fatal crashes. New studies and statistics prove this. Data is being collected on crashes caused by drivers who were texting or using a cell phone, and the results so far are remarkable.

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (“NHTSA”) recently issued a research report called “Distracted Driving 2012.” It summarized statistical findings from 2012 vehicle crash data from multiple databases. The data sources included the Fatality Accident Reporting System and National Automotive Sampling System.

NHTSA defined a distraction-related crash as any crash in which a driver was identified as distracted at the time of the crash. Distracted driving can include texting, using a cell phone, eating or drinking, interacting with other passengers, or adjusting controls.  NHTSA also noted that figures on distraction are often self-reported, and thus could well be underestimated. Here are some of the report’s interesting points.

Distraction is a factor in a sizable percentage of crashes. Eighteen percent of 2012 crashes in which people were injured had driver distraction. Ten percent of all fatal crashes involved distraction. Sixteen percent of all motor vehicle crashes did too.

Teenagers are the largest proportion of distracted drivers. Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. That age group makes up the largest proportion of distracted drivers, followed by those in their 20’s.

Cell phones caused an estimated 28,000 injuries in vehicle crashes. In 2012, NHTSA estimates that 28,000 people were injured in crashes caused by drivers using cell phones. That included 378 fatal crashes.

Drivers in their 20’s were the largest proportion of those using cell phones. Of distracted drivers using cell phones, 34 percent of them were drivers in their 20’s. Perhaps this is a result of the constant communication by cell phone in this age group through various ways including texting and social media. It is also an age group that may be more likely than teenagers to have cell phones, and may be subject to fewer laws or family rules about texting while driving than novice drivers. Drivers in their 20’s also had the highest percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes.

Distraction kills and injures those other than the driver. There were 2,010 drivers killed in 2012 by their own distracted driving. However, others also were harmed by distracted driving. More than 800 passengers and nonoccupants (like pedestrians and bicyclists) were killed in distraction-affected crashes. In 2012, there were an estimated 421,000 people injured in distraction-affected crashes. About 30 percent of those injured were not the driver.

Several states (such as California, Colorado, Nevada, and Illinois) now ban texting while driving. NHTSA has an excellent interactive page and map of current laws here at distraction.gov.

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