distracted driving

The US Distracted Driving Report: A Major Cause of Road Accidents

Zutobi
by Zutobi · Updated Oct 19, 2021

Distracted driving is defined as driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Due to the nature of being less focused on driving, distracted driving will drastically increase the chance of being involved in a motor vehicle crash. At 100 mph, being distracted for just 1 second will mean the vehicle travels 146 feet.

Each year, thousands of drivers and passengers are fatally injured as a result of distracted driving. In 2019, over 3,100 people in the US were killed in the 2895 fatal distracted driving crashes reported that year, and an estimated 424,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. This is an increase from 2,800 deaths in 2018.

In this report, we’ve taken a deep dive into the data to find out what reality really looks like. We then crunched the data to see which states distracted driving results in the most fatal road accidents, and ranked each state from best to worst. 

What is distracted driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) divides the most common driver distractions into several categories – these include distractions that happen inside the vehicle and distractions that occur outside the vehicle. The most common cause of distracted driving involves the use of cell phones.

The major causes of distraction based on crash statistics by the NHTSA.

How has distracted driving changed through the years?

Distracted driving continues to be a big part of the total traffic accidents in the United States. Since 2016, the total number of distracted driving crashes resulting in an injury have remained virtually unchanged, with about 285,000 crashes each year. 

About 8% of crashes with injuries can be attributed to cell phones, with the percentage growing in relation to the severity of the accident – for example, cell phones can be attributed to 13% of fatal distracted driving accidents in 2019. This is not surprising, since cell phone use will directly impact your ability to react to hazards.

Texting while driving on average takes about five seconds according to the NHTSA – if you’re driving 55 mph, that’s the same as driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed.

According to the NHTSA, drivers below the age of 20 have the highest probability of being involved in a fatal traffic accident due to distracted driving.

Cell phone usage between different age groups

The 2019 data collected from NHTSA indicates very different behavior and causes of distracted driving, especially in regards to the use of cell phones. Here is a breakdown of different age groups and cell phone usage.

  1. 15-20 year olds: 17%
  2. 21-24 year olds: 16%
  3. 25-34 year olds: 23%
  4. 35-44 year olds: 20%
  5. 45-54 year olds: 12%
  6. 55-64 year olds: 8%
  7. 65-74 year olds: 3%
  8. Older than 75: 1%

The high percentage of cell phone use among younger drivers is a cause for concern since speaking on a mobile phone while driving increases crash risk by 2 times, while texting increases the crash risk by up to 6 times. The reason is simple: both of these actions will greatly reduce the attention spent on the road ahead.

States with the highest rate of distracted driving accidents 

New Mexico has the highest rate of fatal crashes due to distracted driving in various age groups. According to statistics by NHTSA, New Mexico reported 137 distracted driving crashes in 2019 leading to a staggering 37.2% of all fatal crashes having an element of distracted driving in them. The second worst state is New Jersey (24.6%), followed by Hawaii (24.5%).

States with the lowest rate of distracted driving accidents

Mississippi appears to be the state with the fewest number of fatal crashes due to distracted driving on record, with just 2.2 distracted crashes per 100 fatal crashes, followed by West Virginia (2.8%), and Georgia (3.1%).

The complete list of distracted driving statistics state-by-state

The large difference in distracted driving crashes could, in part, be attributed to different state guidelines on reporting distracted driving accidents. It can also be a result of extensive work by local governments on tackling distracted driving through anti-text laws, awareness campaigns, and more.

Methodology

Data in this report has been gathered from different governmental websites, including the Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST) developed by NHTSA, the use of electronic devices, and fatal road crashes and injuries involving different age groups

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