Distracted driving has largely replaced drunk driving as the focal point for awareness campaigns and driver education cautionary tales. The focus has shifted so dramatically, in fact, that some people now seem to think that the media or law enforcement agencies exaggerate these risks.
Is distracted driving really as pervasive and dangerous as the media makes it seem? Do the statistics justify laws against using phones while driving?
How many people drive distracted?
It is impossible to identify exactly how many people drive distracted. Not all forms of distraction involve mobile devices or other forms of technology. People eating, talking to someone in the back seat or fiddling with the radio are distracted just like someone sending a text message.
Additionally, people who cause crashes aren’t always honest about their actions immediately before the collision, making it difficult to track exactly what causes every crash that occurs. Without honest reporting or traffic camera footage, some distraction-related crashes don’t get counted.
Finally, only a fraction of people driving distracted actually cause a crash. Most people will do it without any consequence, further reinforcing their belief that it doesn’t really matter if they respond to a text at the wheel. While it isn’t possible to give conclusive figures, it’s easy to guess that at least a few of the people you see on the road every day will have a phone in their lap or their eyes on the screen of their dashboard rather than the road in front of them.
How many crashes do distracted drivers cause?
Drunk driving still accounts for an outsized portion of the crashes that occur every year, but distracted driving has quickly become another leading cause of preventable collisions. According to an analysis of crash data in recent years, about 8.5% of all fatal crashes involve distraction. Almost one in 10 vehicle deaths involve someone messing around with their phone when they shouldn’t be.
You can help keep yourself and your passengers safer by remembering that you are not the exception to the rule. You should keep your phone out of your hands and silenced while you drive. If you do get hurt in a crash involving another distracted driver, you can potentially take action to hold that driver accountable.