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Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving

In an age where 91 percent of Americans own cell phones[1], distracted driving has grown to mean more than just fiddling with the radio or trying to calm down screaming toddlers in the back seat. Distraction.gov, the official US government website for distracted driving, defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Texting and cell phone use top the list of causes. The website also lists the following as distracted driving actions, noting that all distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety:

  • Texting
  • Using cell phones and smartphones
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigational system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting the radio / CD player / MP3 player

The harsh reality is that as cell phone use has grown, so have the number of deaths and injuries related to distracted driving. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, and roughly 421,000 people were injured[2]. We’ve compiled some key facts to help you learn about distracted driving and do your part in preventing it. The more you know, the more you can do to stop it.

The Stats

  • At any given time in the United States, some 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones.
  • Nearly half (48%) of drivers admit to answering their cell phones while driving.
  • Of those, 58% will continue to drive while on the phone.
  • 24% of drivers are willing to make a phone call while driving.
  • 1 in 10 drivers sometimes send texts or emails while driving, and 14% of drivers read their texts or emails while driving[3].
  • 20% of teens and 10% of parents admit to having extended, multi-text conversations while driving.
  • More than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured every day in crashes involving distracted driving.
  • 16% of all fatal crashes involve distracted driving[4].

Dangers of Distracted Driving

Why Is It Dangerous?

  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone and dialing) increases your risk of crashing by 3x[5].
  • Texting while driving increases your risk of crashing by up to 23x.
  • Texting while driving increases your time spent with your eyes off the road by 400%[6].
  • 5 seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while you’re texting. Travelling at 55MPH, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
  • Texting while driving kills 11 teens per day[7].

What’s Being Done About It:

  • 14 states, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
    • All are primary enforcement laws, meaning officers may cite drivers for cell phone use without any other traffic offense.
  • 38 states and DC ban all cell phone use for novice drivers
  • 20 states and DC ban all cell phone use for bus drivers
    • No states ban all cell phone use for all drivers
  • 44 states, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands ban texting while driving for all drivers.
    • All but 5 states are primary enforcement laws.
  • Of the 6 states without all-driver texting bans:
    • 4 states prohibit texting by novice drivers
    • 3 prohibit texting by bus drivers

To find out what your state’s stance is on cell phone use while driving, visit the Governors’ Highway Safety Association.

If you’d like to help stop distracted driving, you can visit textinganddrivingsafety.com and take the Text-Free Driving Pledge.


[1] Source: Pew Research Center

[3] Source: 2012 National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behavior

[7] Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

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