Distracted Driving: A Growing Safety Concern

by Sandra Samuels, MD

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSHA), a division of the US Department of Transportation, has been collecting data since 2010. They note that “Distracted Driving” has been the cause of many accidents in the past eight years.
In 2015, they estimated that 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries resulted from crashes involving distracted drivers. In addition, 551 non-occupants (443 pedestrians, 73 bicyclists and others), were killed by distracted drivers.

In all, an estimated 32,166 total fatal crashes occurred – this translates into 11% of all fatalities were due to distracted drivers. In addition, 2,443,000 people were injured. Data from 2015 (NTHSA) points out that 36% of the 3,263 drivers who were distracted were under 30 years. Of the 456 who were using cell phones, 47% were under 30 years.

Furthermore 44.5 % of US teens report that they text and drive. In a study reported in an American Academy of Pediatrics Journal article from 2013, those same teens took higher risks – eg. they were less likely to wear a seatbelt, more likely to ride with a driver who had drunk alcohol, or to drink and drive themselves.

Besides text messaging while driving, distractions may include use of cell phones, listening, speaking, or manipulating tinstruments while driving. Other distractions such as adjusting radio, CD cassettes, tablets, other disturbance in the car or outside, eating, talking, or lost in thought/daydreaming may cause accidents. Distraction even for only a few seconds can be critical in contributing to a crash.

For this reason most states, including New Jersey have a primary enforcement ban (ticket) drivers using hand-held devices or texting while driving.