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Distracted Driving: May We Have Your Full Attention for a Moment?

April 22, 2015| By John Butler | Auto/Motor | English

Region: U.S.

April Is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Some Research:

According to the Center for Disease Control, each day in the United States, more than nine people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.1 Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving.

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving

The report notes that there are many activities that distract drivers; however, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distractions.

The March 2015, AAA  Foundation for Traffic Safety report grabbed the attention of national and local media with its released “Naturalistic” (real-world) study of dash cam [dashboard-mounted camera] video of crashes by distracted teen drivers.2 According to the study, drivers aged 15-20 accounted for 4,283 of the 33,461 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2012. The study was the first to examine a large number of teen driver crashes observed via in-vehicle technology. Among its conclusions:

  • Driver errors contributed to 94%-99% of all young-driver crashes examined.
  • The most common behavior observed in young driver crashes was interacting with passengers.
  • Another behavior frequently observed was cell phone use, with operating/looking at the phone (e.g., texting or dialing) being observed most frequently.
  • Drivers were significantly more likely to be using cell phones (for talking or texting) when alone in the vehicle than with passengers.

A 2014 IIHS study notes hand-held phone use by drivers appears to be leveling however drivers texting or visibly manipulating hand-held devices is sharply higher when compared to usage in 2005.3 Texting in 2012 was highest among 16 to 24-year-olds, at 3%. Other distracting activities included adjusting a radio, eating and drinking, reading, grooming, smoking and interacting with passengers. 

According to a 2012 National Safety Council (NSC) study,4 drivers using hands-free and handheld cell phones have a tendency to “look at” but not “see” objects. “Distracted drivers experience inattention blindness. They are looking out the windshield, but do not process everything in the roadway environment necessary to effectively monitor their surroundings, seek and identify potential hazards and to respond to unexpected situations…” The driver’s field of view narrows as noted below:

Additional study findings:

  • Driver distractions have joined alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes.
  • The National Safety Council estimates 21% of all crashes in 2010 involved talking on cell phones - accounting for 1.1 million crashes that year.
  • A minimum of 3% of crashes are estimated to involve texting.

States have put laws on the books in their efforts to alter behavior.5

The Costs:

What You Can Do:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 2.4 million Americans worked in the insurance industry in 2013. As leaders in the industry, we can set examples and implement risk mitigation policies banning the use of hand-held and hands-free cellphones while driving on company business. These policies can reduce the risks, costs and potential liability of distracted driving while enhancing employee and community safety. The NSC recommends such policies and provides The Free Cell Phone Policy Kit.6

1Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety – Distracted Driving
Using Naturalistic Driving Data to Assess the Prevalence of Environmental Factors and Driver Behaviors in Teen Driver Crashes
Eyes on the road: Searching for answers to the problem of distracted driving
Understanding the Distracted Brain; Why Driving While Using Hands-Free Cell Phones Is Risky Behavior.
Distracted Driving Laws by State
Employers can end distracted driving with cell phone policies


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