Strengthening Distracted Driving Education, Legislation, and Enforcement
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” With the proliferation of personal electronic devices and in-vehicle technology in our society, many jurisdictions have enacted or pursued enhancements to distracted driving laws to reduce or eliminate crashes in which the proximate cause is distracted driving alone or in combination with other violations. Every day, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes involving distracted driving. As reported by NHTSA, distracted driving is a factor in approximately 14% of all fatal crashes in the United States. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) recommends states ban handheld cell phone use by all drivers and include a texting ban as part of that law. GHSA’s policy and a table of state distracted driving laws can be found here.
Although cellphone use is not the only reason for driver distraction, it poses a significant risk to roadway safety. Texting is especially concerning because it combines visual, manual, and cognitive functions. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds; at 55 mph, this is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field.
The impact of distractions on driving is determined not just by the type of distraction but also by the frequency and duration of the distraction. Because drivers often have a choice regarding when and how often to multitask when driving, their exposure to risk is typically within their control; however, some research has shown drivers underestimate the overall risk of various distractions.
Read the full report here.