The dangers of taking your eyes and mind off the road ahead have been apparent since the earliest days of motorcars. Those silent film gags about a man spotting an attractive woman and running off the road were not wholly inventions of screen comedians.
Reminders to focus on the task of driving and avoiding collisions gained new urgency in the early 2000s as GPS devices, cell phones and smartphones, and in-vehicle entertainment system became increasingly common.
It did not help that those electronic devices simply added to the panoply of distractions already available to drivers. Focus is lost, and hands come off the wheel, each time drivers eat, drink, fiddle with the radio, remove a jacket, and apply makeup. Conversations with passengers distract, and teens are more prone to crashing simply because passengers are in the vehicle. Fatigue creates distractions because eyes that close cannot see changes in traffic flow or red lights.
- Pay Attention to the Dangers of Distracted Driving
- GPS Use and Distracted Driving Accidents
- Distracted Driving Kills: Here’s Why
But how dangerous is distracted driving, really?
A topline statistic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tells part of the story. During 2018, the agency recorded 2,841 deaths in crashes caused by distracted drivers. That number alone moved the agency to urge all U.S. drivers to take (and hold to) this pledge:
The fight to end distracted driving starts with you. Make the commitment to drive phone-free today.
- Protect lives by never texting or talking on the phone while driving.
- Be a good passenger and speak out if the driver in my car is distracted.
- Encourage my friends and family to drive phone-free.
This strikes my North Carolina personal injury and wrongful death colleagues and me as a good idea. Especially since, as noted, the thousands of deaths due to distracted driving are just one facet of the problem. To fill in some of the blanks:
- NHTSA has determined that driver distraction contributes to 25 percent of all motor vehicle crashes.
- Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University discovered that listening to a cell phone “reduces by 37 percent the amount of brain activity associated with driving.”
- Videos of drivers that were recorded while the people were actually on the road and then analyzed by Virginia Tech researchers revealed that distracted drivers were 20 times more likely to crash than were focused driver.
- A study conducted at the University of Utah showed “that people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit.”
- A consensus is emerging that texting drivers hit and barely miss pedestrians more frequently than do drivers who do not text behind the wheel.
I could keep listing stats, but the message should be clear: Distracted driving is dangerous driving. The numbers prove it.