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 focus 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 2016, 3,450 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, according to latest data from NHTSA, or 9.2 percent of all crash fatalities in the United States.
There were 442 fatal crashes in 2015 that were reported to have involved the use of cellphones as a distraction. Cellphones were reported as a distraction for 14 percent of all distracted drivers in fatal crashes. In 2015, 476 people died in fatal crashes that involved the use of cellphones or other cellphone-related activities as distractions.
Teen drivers reported 55 percent fewer hand-held phone conversations in states where hand-held calling bans were in place for all drivers, regardless of age, compared to states that had no bans on hand-held calls. However, universal (all-driver) texting bans did not fully discourage teens from texting while driving, and bans limited to just young drivers were not effective in reducing either hand-held conversations or texting. Even with laws in place, about one-third of teen drivers were still talking on the phone and texting while driving. These findings were reported in a study that spanned four years from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and used data from a national survey to examine the effectiveness of state-level cellphone laws in decreasing teens’ use of cellphones while driving. The researchers were from West Virginia University and the University of Minnesota, and their findings were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
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.
Distracted driving, fueled by the proliferation of smart phones is one of the factors contributing to the recent spike in accident claims. Insurers are increasingly partnering with app developers or creating their own apps that curb distracted driving by limiting the drivers ability to use their smartphones while driving.