Car Crashes and Traffic Fatalities in 2010: Distracted Driving, Part 3

This is the third post in a three-part series that is taking a closer look at the recent federal agency report that analyzes car accident data across the nation for 2010.

According to NHTSA’s report, and a surprise to no one, the agency is concerned about the continuing danger that distracted driving poses to motorists. Five percent of motorists are reported as being seen using a cell phone while driving. But it is difficult to capture the full scope of the problem, as many drivers will not admit to using a cell phone during an accident. This lack of admission, coupled often with few witnesses, prevents the agency from getting a full grasp on the problem as a whole.

To gain a better handle on the scope of the problem, NTHSA surveyed drivers to assess driver perception of the safety risks of using handheld devices while behind the wheel. Three out of four drivers surveyed admit to answering the phone while driving. These same participants admit to feeling uncomfortable as a passenger when a driver texts or talks while driving.

Additionally, NHTSA is now beginning to measure the number of auto accident fatalities related to distracted driving. The new measure, known as “distraction-affected crashes,” will focus on situations where the driver is most likely to have been distracted.

The NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System already previously reported potential distractions such as cell phone use and careless driving, but it was not narrowly focused. With this shift, FARS will now focus narrowly on the factors most likely to have affected the crash such as dialing the phone or texting.

Distracted driving continues to be a problem and drivers are able to learn more about the hazards through education. State and federal agencies are continuing to enact laws to control and restrict the use of cell phones while driving in an attempt to increase highway safety overall.

Source: US DOT, “U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces Lowest Level Of Annual Traffic Fatalities In More Than Six Decades,” 12/8/11.