Over 70 percent of drivers admit to distracted driving behaviors while behind the wheel. Accidents and injuries related to cell phone use account for more than 1 million car crashes each year in the United States.
Distracted Driving on the Rise
Distracted driving is on the rise. The Harris Poll and Volvo USA recently teamed up to explore distracted driving behaviors, the most prevalent distractions, and drivers most prone to distracted driving. Polls reveal that 90 percent of drivers say they are more distracted behind the wheel today than they were five years ago. Although speeding, aggressive driving, and drunk driving are still high on the list, 70 percent of drivers list distracted driving as the number one threat and cause of car accidents and injuries.
Drivers polled list the main cause of distracted driving as cell phone use. Up to 93 percent of drivers admit to talking on their cell phones while driving and 74 percent admit to texting. Another 60 percent say they send texts, 56 percent check emails, and 22 percent video chat while driving. Two-thirds, 66 percent, of drivers say they keep their cell phones within arm’s reach at all times.
Among polled drivers, the most likely group to use their cell phones while behind the wheel are Gen X and millennial drivers. Each group accounts for 81 percent of drivers distracted by cell phone use. This is followed by young boomers -72 percent; Gen Z – 71 percent; old boomers – 64 percent; and the silent generation – 59 percent. Gen Z drivers say they are more likely to focus on the road than their parents.
Another group of highly distracted drivers is parents with children under the age of 18. Parents who participated in the polls admitted to using their cell phones while driving alone, driving with passengers, and stopped at traffic lights. One-third of parents admit to using their cell phones while driving with their children in the car. Parents listed a variety of reasons for talking or texting while driving including checking on their kids, confirming school drop-offs and pickups, scheduling appointments, checking directions, and talking or texting friends.
Dangers of Distracted Driving
Every day in the U.S., 10 people are killed and over 1,000 are injured in distracted driving accidents. Distracted driving now surpasses speeding and drunk driving as the number one cause of car accidents and injuries. Distracted driving behaviors pose serious dangers to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. They take the driver’s eyes off the road and impair the driver’s ability to concentrate on safe driving. As a result, drivers miss important traffic signals and road hazards, have slower response and reaction times, and are four times more likely to be involved in a serious car crash. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving presents three areas of concern:
- Visual Risks – Looking away from the road. Studies show that it only takes seconds to cause a serious car crash when a driver takes his/her eyes off the road.
- Manual Risks – Taking hands off the wheel. Talking or texting on a cell phone, changing radio stations, snapping photos, and using a GPS system take a driver’s hands off the wheel.
- Cognitive Risks – Distracted driving behaviors impair a driver’s ability to process necessary information for safe driving. Slower response and reaction times can prove fatal in a car crash.
Safe driving requires constant attention to the road. It requires visual, manual, and cognitive skills to recognize and process information and translate that information into physical actions such as steering the car, stepping on the gas and brakes, and keeping a safe distance behind other drivers. Studies show that distracted drivers fail to see or process about 50 percent of the information around them. Most distracted drivers don’t realize their dangerous level of inattentiveness to the road.
Preventing Distracted Driving Crashes
To prevent distracted driving accidents and injuries, drivers must stay focused on the road while driving. Although using a hands-free or Bluetooth-enabled cell phone may reduce some visual or manual risks, it does not help drivers maintain their focus on the road. For maximum driving safety, drivers should avoid cell phone use, even with a hands-free device, while driving and set or check navigation features only when stopped.
The National Safety Council urges all drivers to observe Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April. This year, legislators across the country plan to enact more comprehensive laws to prevent distracted driving injuries and deaths on U.S. roads. The National Safety Council encourages state legislators to address the dangers of distracted driving. Currently, no state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 38 states ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states prohibit cell phone use for school bus drivers.