Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving

Activities that take drivers’ attention off the road, including talking or texting on cellphones, eating, conversing with passengers and other distractions, are a major safety threat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gauges distracted driving by collecting data on “distraction-affected crashes,” which focuses on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement such as dialing a cellphone or texting and being distracted by another person or an outside event. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes and 421,000 people were injured. In 2012, there were 3,050 distraction-affected fatal crashes, about the same as the 3,047 that occurred in 2011. The 3,050 distraction-affected fatal crashes in 2012 accounted for 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the nation, 18 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of all motor vehicle crashes.

FATAL CRASHES AFFECTED BY DISTRACTED DRIVERS, 2012

  Crashes Drivers Fatalities
Total fatal crashes 30,800 45,337 33,561
Distracted-affected fatal crashes      
Number 3,050 3,119 3,328
Percent of total fatal crashes 10% 7% 10%
Cellphone in use in distracted-affected fatal crashes      
Number 378 394 415
Percent of fatal distracted-affected crashes 12% 13% 12%

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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NHTSA says that in 2012, 12 percent of distraction-affected crashes occurred while a cell phone was in use, the same proportion as in 2011. The chart below shows driver hand-held phone use by age.

DRIVER HAND-HELD CELLPHONE USE BY AGE, 2004-2012

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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NHTSA’s website, Distraction.gov has more information on distracted driving. “It Can Wait”, a public awareness campaign funded by four by wireless carriers, provides resources on the dangers of distracted driving, including “From One Second to the Next”, a film by director Werner Herzog profiling the victims of distracted driving.