As defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is described as any endeavor that takes attention away from driving. This includes, but is not limited to:
- eating and drinking,
- adjusting the stereo, entertainment or navigation system,
- talking to people in your vehicle, or
- talking and texting on your phone.
Of those listed, texting while driving is the one that continues to garner the most attention—and for good reason. When you send or read a text, you are spending about five seconds not looking at the road. While five seconds may not seem like a very long time, at 55 mph, it's like driving the length of the football field while blindfolded. At greater speeds, like those found on expressways, that distance increases even more.
In short, safe driving begins with your attention focused on the road and your surroundings. Therefore, any non-driving activity can be seen as a distraction and increase your risk of getting into an accident.
It happens often.
In 2015, there were 391,000 injuries and nearly 3,500 fatalities stemming from motor vehicle collisions where distracted drivers were involved.
On any given day during daylight hours, about 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving. The potential this creates for injuries and fatalities is staggering. The age group most likely to be involved in fatal crashes due to distracted driving: teens.
Distracted Driving Statistics
Overcoming ignorance is the first step in creating a safer driving environment. To that end, let's dig a little deeper into the statistics related specifically to cell phones and driving.
- According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 1.6 million accidents each year are directly related to drivers using cell phones at the time of impact.
- 25% of all crashes in the U.S. stem from texting while driving.
- You are six times more likely to be the cause of an accident if you are texting while driving than if you are driving drunk.
- Bans on texting while driving are supported by 94% of Americans.
- Bans on any hand-held cell phone use while driving are supported by 74% of Americans.
Recent statistics on teen driving compiled by AAA offers some pretty staggering numbers. For instance, like the general public, 94% of teen drivers support a ban on driving while texting. Still, 35% of teens admit to driving while texting. It is presumed that the actual number of teens texting while driving is even greater than those who admit to it.
Other statistics on teen driving include:
- Teenage drivers are four times more likely to be in accidents (or near-accidents) when using a cell phone while driving.
- Having one extra passenger in a vehicle doubles a teen driver's risk of being in a fatal crash.
- Having two or more extra passengers increases the risk of being in a fatal crash by five times.
- 57% of young drivers said they would travel at the highest speed possible while they drove, while just 37% of drivers above the age of 25 would do the same.
How Can We Be Safer?
Ideally, we would all (on our own) just be more mindful about distracted driving and put down our phones. That is a little unrealistic, though. As a result, U.S. governments have increasingly been taking steps to decrease crashes resulting from distracted driving through the implementation of new laws.
Ten states and Washington D.C. have bans on using any handheld device for any purpose while driving. No texting. No calling. No social media. Nothing.
Thirty-eight states and Washington D.C. also have laws against young drivers using their cell phones while driving. Naturally, this is because of the statistics we just covered in relation to teen drivers. Yes, cell phone usage is dangerous for all drivers. Older drivers have experience on the road that helps them to greatly reduce those associated risks, though.
To that end, 47 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have bans on text messaging for all drivers.
As speed limits around the nation continue to increase, the importance of keeping your attention focused on driving, especially for teen drivers, becomes more important every day. The easiest way to keep your eyes on the road is to keep them off your phone while you are driving.