How deadly is distracted driving?
According to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), twice as deadly as drunk driving. Hard to believe, perhaps, but the police say that twice as many people have died on the province’s roads because of distracted driving than because of drunk driving.
The OPP announced their findings at the end of August 2016, reminding drivers and passengers to be alert and vigilant when in a vehicle.
Distracted Driving a Rising Cause of Accidents and Deaths
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day in the U.S., over 8 people are killed and at least 1,161 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. They define distracted driving as doing any other activity that takes your attention away from driving. The three main types are:
- Taking your eyes off the road
- Taking your hands off the wheel
- Taking your mind off driving
Distracted driving activities include things like using your cell phone, texting, eating, grooming, and using in-vehicle technologies (like navigation systems).
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety notes that federal estimates suggest distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year. Their research shows that the average distraction “latency,” lasts about 27 seconds, meaning that even after drivers disengage from the distraction, their minds still aren’t fully engaged with driving until that much time has passed.
In August 2016, the Chicago Tribune reported that traffic fatalities increased by 8 percent nationwide last year, and that distracted driving played a part in that increase.
OPP Asks Passengers to Speak Up About Distracted Driving
According to the OPP’s statement, distracted driving contributed to twice as many deaths on Ontario roads than impaired driving. They investigated 38 deaths involving an inattentive driver, compared to 19 involving an impaired driver.
They added that since distracted driving laws were introduced in 2009, “driver inattention-related road deaths are poised to double the number of impaired-related deaths this year.” Distracted driving has been blamed for more than 600 deaths on OPP-patrolled roads since that time.
Police also asked passengers to step up and say something if they were riding with a driver who was distracted. “Speak up and insist that they focus on the road and on safe driving,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair.
States Enacting New Laws to Help Dissuade Drivers from Using Cell Phones
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014 were reported as distraction-affected crashes. Drivers aged 15 to 19 are the most likely to be distracted at the time of a crash.
Many states are enacting laws banning texting while driving, to help raise awareness and reduce the number of drivers engaging in distracted behaviors. In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration banned all hand-held cell phone use by commercial drivers, and by drivers carrying hazardous materials.
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