According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving is defined as “doing another activity that takes the driver’s attention away from driving.” The CDC further explains that “distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.”
Despite technology allowing for safer cars, distracted driving is still a serious cause of concern that makes driving particularly dangerous, especially with the endless amount of distractions a driver can endure. Cell phone use while driving—whether it be talking on the phone or texting—is one of the leading distractions among drivers. However, other distractions such as eating while driving, interacting with passengers, or even changing the radio station can also lead to serious car accidents.
What percentage of accidents are caused by distracted driving
According to the CDC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving impacts thousands of Americans. The NHTSA data shows that approximately 3,000 people are involved in fatal car accidents resulting from distracted drivers every year. More than nine people are killed, and approximately 1,153 people are injured due to distracted driving accidents daily in the United States. The NHTSA reported that distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States.
Distracted driving accident statistics
- The NHTSA reported that in 2019, 9% of fatal crashes were reported as distraction-related crashes, while 15% of all injury crashes were reported as distracted driving accidents.
- 566 nonoccupants (pedestrians) were killed in a distracted driver accident in 2019.
- In 2019, 6% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the incident.
- In 2020, police reported approximately 50,098 distraction-related accidents.
Three distractions for young drivers
The CDC explains that there are three main types of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive.
Young drivers are particularly susceptible to engaging in any of these three types of distraction while driving. Today’s technology makes it especially easy for drivers to become distracted visually, manually, or cognitively.
Visual distraction occurs when taking your eyes off the road. Young drivers can experience visual distractions in many different ways, including checking their phones, glancing at the car radio, or even looking over at their passengers. Visual distractions are extremely dangerous, as it is essential for all drivers to keep their eyes on the road at all times while operating a motor vehicle.
Manual distraction occurs when taking your hands off the wheel. Young drivers can experience manual distractions in many different ways as well. Some of these occur simultaneously with visual distractions, such as texting on a cell phone or playing with the car radio. By removing your hands from the steering wheel, you are essentially easing up on the control over your vehicle, which could become particularly dangerous in many situations.
Cognitive distractions occur when taking your mind off the road. Cognitive distractions can include daydreaming and thinking about things other than driving, or they can occur simultaneously with visual and manual distractions. These other distractions require a driver’s attention, so by engaging in behaviors such as texting or speaking on a cell phone, a driver’s mind can easily travel elsewhere, causing the driver to lose focus on driving.
Five facts about distracted driving
- While traveling at a speed of 55 miles per hour, sending or reading a text is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
- Forbes reports that texting while driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. Texting while driving prevents you from being fully engaged on the road ahead, which can cause significant visual, manual, and cognitive distractions similar to driving while intoxicated.
- A driver’s recovery time can be severely impacted during distracted driving—it can take nearly 27 seconds for a driver’s eyes to readjust to the road after looking down to send a text message.
- All distracted driving accidents are entirely preventable. Every driver makes the decision for themselves whether to focus on the road or to succumb to distractions such as cell phones. The more drivers choose to take the initiative to avoid distracted driving, the safer our roads will likely become.
- States that have implemented texting bans have seen a reduction in emergency room trips due to distracted driving. While an overall ban on texting may seem difficult to achieve, evidence that these bans help prevent distracted driving emergency room visits may encourage clothes to follow suit.
Traffic Safety Facts – NHTSA. (2021).
Leicht, A. Texting And Driving Statistics. (2022).
Distracted Driving – WeSaveLives. (2017).