1. What is distracted driving?
2. Why do people do it?
3. Who are the offenders, and how great a problem is this?
4. Is it safe to use hands-free (headset, speakerphone, or other device) cell phones while driving?
5. Is talking on a cell phone any worse than having a conversation with someone in the car?
6. What, if anything, is NHTSA doing to try to combat this problem?
7. How do the states deal with this problem?
8. Are there any federal laws regarding distractions in cars?
Distracted driving is a serious, life-threatening practice and we will not rest until we stop it.
We are leading the effort but you are the key to preventing distracted driving. The message is simple - Put it down!
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.
While all distractions can endanger drivers' safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction.
Other distracting activities include:
Using a cell phone
Eating and drinking
Talking to passengers
Reading, including maps
Using a PDA or navigation system
Watching a video
Changing the radio station, CD, or Mp3 player.
20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA).
Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashed, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)
In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (FARS and GES)
The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group - 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. (NHTSA)
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it's hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)
Important information regarding driver distraction comes from records of traffic fatalities and injuries collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Driver distraction could present a serious and potentially deadly danger. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. Distracted driving comes in various forms, such as cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking, talking with passengers, as well as using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.
There are other less obvious forms of distractions including daydreaming or dealing with strong emotions.
While these numbers are significant, they may not state the true size of the problem, since the identification of distraction and its role in a crash can be very difficult to determine using only police-reported data. New data sources are available to provide more details on the type and presence of driver distraction.
Police-reported data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling show that:
In 2009, there were 30,797 fatal crashes in the United States, which involved 45,230 drivers. In those crashes 33,808 people died.
In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction (16% of total fatalities).
The proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. During that time, fatal crashes with reported driver distraction also increased from 10 percent to 16 percent.
The portion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.
The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20- to-29-year-old age group - 13 percent of all 20-to-29-year-old drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.
Of those drivers reportedly distracted during a fatal crash, the 30-to-39-year-old drivers were the group with the greatest proportion distracted by cell phones. Cell phone distraction was reported for 24 percent of the 30-to-39-year-old distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
Light-truck drivers and motorcyclists had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of the fatal crash (12% each). Bus drivers had the lowest percentage (6%) of total drivers involved in fatal crashes that were reported as distraction-related.
An estimated 20 percent of 1,517,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving in 2009.
The National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS) is a nationally representative survey specifically focused toward documenting events and conditions leading up to crashes.
NMVCCS captures distraction as an associated factor to the crash and/or as the critical reason that made the crash imminent. Driver distraction was coded as the critical reason in 18 percent of the crashes. Data describing the specifics of the distraction -- for example adjusting the radio or eating -- are included in this data set.
Another method for collecting pre-crash data is through naturalistic driving studies, in which vehicles are equipped with cameras and data recording equipment.
During NHTSA's 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, driver involvement in secondary tasks contributed to more than 22 percent of all crashes and near-crashes recorded during the study period.
The following NHTSA data sources were used in the research:
Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES)
National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS)
The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study
National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) of Driver Electronic Use
Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey (MVOSS)
Use of Electronic Devices While Driving
A 2009 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals an increase in the use of electronic devices while driving and some regional differences in this practice.
The percentage of young drivers manipulating a hand-held electronic device while driving has decreased from 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 2009 nationwide survey, which provides the only nationwide probability-based observed data on driver electronic device use in the United States. The survey shows that the hand-held cell phone use rate in 2009 translates into 672,000 vehicles being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone at any given moment during daylight hours. It also translates into an estimated 9 percent of all vehicles that had drivers who were using some type of phone (hand-held or hands-free).
Nationwide, those drivers observed visibly manipulating hand-held electronic devices dropped significantly from 1.0 percent to 0.6 percent.
Some 1.1 percent of drivers 16 to 24 years old were observed visibly manipulating hand-held electronic devices, down from 1.7 percent the previous year
More drivers in Southern States were observed manipulating hand-held electronic devices (1.0%) than in the other regions of the country (from 0.2% in the Midwest to 0.5% in the West).
The use of hand-held devices decreased the most in the West, from 2.1 percent in 2008 to 0.5 percent in 2009.
The percentage of drivers visibly manipulating hand-held devices while driving was higher among females (0.7%) than among males (0.5%).
The results above are from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), which provides the only nationwide probability-based observed data on driver electronic device use in the United States. The NOPUS is conducted annually by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The survey observes usage as it actually occurs at randomly selected roadway sites. The survey data is collected by trained observers at probabilistically sampled intersections controlled by stop signs or stoplights, where vehicle occupants are observed from the roadside. Data is collected between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Only stopped vehicles are observed to allow time to collect a variety of information required by the survey, including subjective assessments of occupants' age and race. Observers collect data on the driver, right-front passenger, and up to two passengers in the second row of seats. Observers do not interview occupants, so that the NOPUS can capture the untainted behavior of occupants. The 2009 NOPUS data was collected between June 1 and June 22, 2009, while the 2008 data was collected between June 2 and June 22, 2008.