Each day, more than 15 people are killed and more than 1,200 people are injured in crashes that were reported to involve a distracted driver. Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving; these activities can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.
There are three main types of distraction:
- Visual—taking your eyes off the road;
- Manual—taking your hands off the wheel; and
- Cognitive—taking your mind off what you are doing.
Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.
How big is the problem?
- In 2009, more than 5,400 people died in crashes that were reported to involve a distracted driver and about 448,000 people were injured.
- Among those killed or injured in these crashes, nearly 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries included cell phone use as the major distraction.
- The proportion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of a fatal crash has increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.
- When asked whether driving feels safer, less safe, or about the same as it did five years ago, more than 1 in 3 drivers say driving feels less safe today. Distracted driving—cited by 3 out of 10 of these drivers—was the single most common reason given for feeling less safe today.
- A recent CDC analysis examined the frequency of two major distractions—cell phone use and texting—among drivers in the United States.
Results of the analysis included the following findings:
- Cell phone use while driving:
- 25% of drivers in the United States reported that they “regularly or fairly often” talk on their cell phones while driving.
- 75% of U.S. drivers ages 18 to 29 reported that they talked on their cell phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days, and nearly 40% reported that they talk on their cell phone “regularly” or “fairly often” while driving.
- Texting or e-mailing while driving:
- 9% of drivers in the United States reported texting or e-mailing “regularly or fairly often” while driving.
- 52% of U.S. drivers ages 18-29 reported texting or e-mailing while driving at least once in the last 30 days, and more than a quarter report texting or e-mailing “regularly” or “fairly often” while driving.
What are the risk factors?
Some activities—such as texting—take the driver’s attention away from driving more frequently and for longer periods than other distractions.
Younger, inexperienced drivers under the age of 20 may be at highest risk because they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
How can distracted driving be prevented?
- Many states are enacting laws—such as banning texting while driving—or using graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to keep it from occurring.
- On September 30, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving on government business or with government equipment.
- On October 27, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted a ban that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.
For more information about distracted driving, visit http://www.distraction.gov/ or http://www.iihs.org/research/topics/cell_phones.html.