Federal Report: Distracted Driving Leads to Increase in Car Accidents

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NHTSA: Traffic Accidents Hit 16-Year High in 2021

NHTSA: Traffic Accidents Hit 16-Year High in 2021

Apr 11, 2023

A report recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that traffic accidents hit a 16-year high in 2021. Entitled the “Overview of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes in 2021,” the NHTSA’s report noted that over 42,000 people in the United States died in traffic collisions in 2021. As American car accident have increased in recent years, the NHTSA’s data points to a significant contributing factor – distracted diving.

At least 3,500 traffic-related deaths were due to impaired or distracted driving, according to the NHTSA’s report. However, the agency notes that the number is likely an underestimate because distracted driving is difficult to identify during crash investigations.

Distracted driving is a problem that “involves everyone,” as Psychology Today reported. However, young people are disproportionately at-fault, with 18 to 34-year-olds “more likely to die in distraction-affected crashes than any other age group,” according to NHTSA data.

Psychology Today offered evidence from additional distracted driving studies which tends to indicate that, although hands-free devices are legal and considered safe in most instances, distraction of any kind – particularly from cell phones – can lead to an increase in car accidents.

How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that there are typically three ways people become distracted while driving:

  • Taking their eyes off the road
  • Taking their hands off the wheel
  • Taking their mind off of driving by thinking about something else

“A 2018 systematic review found that any mode of conversation – whether using a handheld phone, a hands-free device, or conversing with a passenger in the car – led to a reduction in driving performance. The review, published in the journal Human Factors, included 93 studies with more than 4,300 participants,” Psychology Today reported.

Additionally, research on distracted driving confirmed:

  • Most drivers conversing on a cellphone while driving compensated for their distraction by reducing their speed and leaving more space for vehicles in front of them.
  • Dialing a phone led to greater reductions in performance compared to simply talking (and was therefore much more dangerous).

Psychology Today noted one important takeaway from the sample of distracted driving research:

If you are planning to have a phone conversation while driving, dial before you begin your trip.

Furthermore, in 2022, researchers in China examined the effect of voice-activated, hands-free driving apps on youth drivers. Their findings include significantly weakened performances of young drivers in certain areas:

  • Young drivers using these apps were more likely to drift from side to side within their lane.
  • Young drivers had slower response time (especially when a traffic light changed color).
  • Young drivers were more likely to experience a collision.

In terms of a solution to distracted driving, Psychology Today referenced a systematic review which found that mindfulness training may be helpful.

“Researchers analyzed 17 studies that looked at whether having a mindful mentality improved driving behavior, and whether specific mindfulness interventions could help. They found that when a driver’s mind wanders, they are more likely to overlook hazards, make mistakes, and increase their risks of having a collision. They found some limited evidence that mindfulness exercises before or while driving, such as taking slow deep breaths, may help drivers stay focused and avoid using mobile or hands-free devices while driving. More research is needed to ensure that these strategies actually work,” Psychology Today said.

Ultimately, the data on distracted driving seems to confirm that taking your mind off of the road for any reason increases your chances of making a mistake and being involved in a motor vehicle collision.

The best strategy to avoid distracted driving is to make a concerted effort to stay in the moment and pay attention to your surroundings,” Psychology Today said.

United States Distracted Driving Statistics for 2023

While texting and driving is one of the most dangerous and common forms of the behavior, additional ways people tend to be involved in such car accidents include:

  • Using a phone or other electronic device
  • Daydreaming
  • Eating and drinking
  • Adjusting the radio, climate controls, or console
  • Talking to passengers

Recent statistics on distracted driving, updated for 2023, include:

  • In 2019, the NHTSA confirmed distracted driving was a factor in 8.7% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States.
  • In the same year, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  • According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018, approximately 2.8% of U.S. adults reported having driven while under the influence of alcohol in the past 30 days, and 3.3% reported having driven while distracted by their phone or other electronic device.
  • Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. According to the National Safety Council, sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which is equivalent to driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour without looking at the road.
  • Young drivers are particularly at risk for distracted driving. According to the CDC, drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of fatal crashes caused by distracted driving.

Injured in a Los Angeles Car Accident? Free Attorney Consultation

If were injured in a car accident by someone else’s negligence – including a distracted driving crash – you may be eligible to recover a cash settlement for damages.

Examples of damages that may be obtained in a car accident civil lawsuit include:

  • Hospital bills
  • Medical care costs (past and future)
  • Prescription drug costs (past and future)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future earning capacity
  • Emotional harm
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Scarring or disfigurement

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