April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a nationwide movement started by the National Safety Council (NSC) to reduce the number of distracted drivers and increase awareness around this dangerous issue affecting our roads. With Distracted Driving Awareness Month comes an influx of information and statistics about distracted driving, as well as guidelines and tips to build better, safer driving habits.
Read on to learn more about this important effort and find out how you can take action to make our roads safer.
Distracted driving facts
While the pandemic dramatically reduced traffic on the road, it did not reduce the number of accidents. Despite fewer people driving in 2020, there were more serious car accidents than the year prior. And as the country began to rebound from the pandemic in 2021, the National Safety Council estimated another year of increased injuries and fatalities due to driving accidents.
- 42,060 estimated motor vehicle deaths in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019
- 46,020 estimated motor-vehicle deaths in 2021, a 9% increase from 2020
The link between these accidents and distracted driving is significant: in recent studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it is estimated that:
- Roughly 20% of driving-related injuries, including deaths, are the result of distracted driving.
- 9% of fatal crashes, 15 % of injury crashes, and 15% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
Distracted driving policy and laws
Distracted driving is a clear and present danger, and that’s not due to a lack of laws or regulations. Although there are many ways for drivers to be distracted, cell phone use is by far the most prevalent. Many states have strict laws in place for cell phone use while driving, with a majority of them outright banning handheld use and texting while behind the wheel. However, these laws are at the discretion of local governments and vary from state to state.
- No current state bans all cell phone use for all drivers
- Texting while driving is banned for all drivers in 48 states
- All handheld cell phone use is banned for all drivers in 24 states
- Cell phone use, including handsfree, is banned for all novice drivers (anyone who has been driving for less than one year) in 37 states
- Any cell phone use, including handsfree, is banned for all school bus drivers in 23 states
Distracted driving ticket costs
Like the laws themselves, the penalties for breaking them vary widely depending on the state. For example, drivers in Alabama will be charged $25 the first time they’re caught texting while driving, $50 the second time and $75 for all subsequent offenses. However in Illinois, Utah, Indiana and Mississippi fines can range from $500 to $1,000 and even include jail time in some states depending on the offense.
In addition to a fine, your insurance premium could increase should you break your state’s distracted driving laws. An article from insurance.com states that “The average rate increase after a texting ticket is 23%, however, it could be as high as 45% or as low as 12%.”
Visit the Governers Highway Safety Association to learn more about your state’s distracted driving laws.
Distracted driving information
To provide a more complete understanding of distracted driving, we included the answers to some of the most common questions surrounding this topic.
What is distracted driving?
Any activity that diverts attention from driving is considered a distraction. No matter how small or short the distraction is, it can result in a costly ticket, serious injury or worse.
Common driving distractions include:
- Talking on the phone
- Eating and drinking
- Applying makeup or fixing hair
- Smoking or vaping
- Reading directions
- Reaching for items in the passenger seat or back seat
- Using electronics or the car’s user interface
What are the 4 types of distracted driving?
- Auditory – hearing or listening to something not related to driving. This could include phone calls, podcasts, music or any other disruptive audio.
- Cognitive – being distracted by thoughts unrelated to driving.
- Manual – physically handling something other than the steering wheel. Common manual distractions are eating or applying makeup while driving.
- Visual – looking at something other than the road. Visual distractions often involve the driver reading text messages or looking at the user interface on their car’s dashboard.
Is distracted driving really a problem?
Just in the year 2019, 3,142 were killed in distracted driving-related accidents. These statistics don’t just include the people behind the wheel either—other drivers and even pedestrians are injured or killed due to distracted drivers. As technology evolves and becomes more integrated into our daily lives, drivers will be confronted with more distractions in the form of texts, instant messages, FaceTime, Zoom calls and more.
Who are the most distracted drivers?
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young adult and teen drivers are the most distracted drivers on the road. In the U.S. in 2018:
- 25% of the distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes were young adults aged 20–29
- Drivers aged 15-19 were more likely to be distracted than drivers aged 20 and older, among drivers in crashes where someone died
Why is distracted driving awareness important?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is a leading cause of injury or death on the road. With so many lives at risk, it’s vital to make all drivers aware of the dangers of distracted driving, especially since it is preventable. The more drivers are aware of distracted driving, the more they can work on improving their own driving habits and contribute to the overall safety of drivers everywhere.
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