The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a new survey of drivers in the U.S. that shows a large number of people use electronic devices while driving. The news is discouraging, particularly given continued warnings by safety advocates about the dangers of distracted driving and efforts by legislators across the country to impose bans on the practice. Indeed, as U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said repeatedly, "there is no way to text and drive safely."
The NHTSA's new survey includes numbers from both the 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey and the 2011 Distraction Fatality Analysis Reporting System data. The NOPUS data indicates that about 660,000 people in the U.S. are using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving at any given daylight moment. This number is roughly the same as NHTSA's previous survey in 2010. According to the newest FARS data, 387,000 people were injured and 3,300 people were killed in car accidents involving distracted drivers in 2011.
Adult drivers are conflicted
Additional survey data makes it difficult to understand why such large numbers of people in the U.S. persist in using electronic devices while behind the wheel. The NHTSA's 2012 National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors found that 74 percent of drivers surveyed favored bans on cell phone use while driving, while 94 percent supported bans on texting while driving. Nevertheless, approximately 50 percent of drivers indicated that they would answer a phone call and 25 percent admitted that they would make a phone call on all, most or some trips in the car.
Furthermore, although many people believe that younger drivers are primarily to blame for most instances of distracted driving, this appears to be untrue. According to a recent study by USA Today, 49 percent of adults surveyed admitted to using their cell phones while behind the wheel, compared to only 43 percent of teen drivers surveyed.
Stopping distracted driving
Although bans on the use of electronic devices while driving are helpful, the key to stopping distracted driving related accidents is for drivers to change their own behavior. The data is clear: distracted driving, no matter the cause, is dangerous. Drivers should not only turn off their phones and other electronic devices while behind the wheel, but should also speak up when they are passengers and the driver of their vehicle uses a device.
Unfortunately, no matter the steps that drivers take, accidents do happen. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, contact a personal injury attorney to learn more about your options.