Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. These types of distractions include: texting, using a cell phone or smart phone, talking to passengers, reading (including maps), using a navigation system, watching a video, or adjusting a radio, CD player, MP3 player, etc. (Distraction.gov).
However, it is no surprise that with ongoing technology and communication advances, texting and cell phone use is by far the most deadly of these distractions. That is why almost all states in the country have passed some sort of laws banning or limiting the use of cell phones while driving.
In early January, a study was conducted in the New England Journal of Medicine in which cameras were installed in the cars of 109 experienced and adult drivers, and 42 novice teen drivers, in Virginia and Washington, D.C., for up to 27 months (The Boston Globe). Throughout this study, there were 685 crashes and near crashes, and researchers were able to use the monitoring devices to evaluate what went wrong.
The researchers focused their study particularly on the group of teen drivers and concluded that they had: 8 times higher crash risk while dialing a phone or reaching for something other than a phone, 7 times higher crash risk while reaching for a phone, 4 times higher crash risk while texting, surfing the web, or looking at a roadside object, and 3 times higher crash risk while eating.
According to an article written in the USA Today last May, distracted driving car crashes are “vastly” underreported, as found in a study conducted by the National Safety Council between 2009-2011. The council reported in its findings that, “Even in fatal crashes where the driver admitted using a cell phone, only 50% of those crashes were coded in the fatal analysis reporting system’s data as involving a cell phone.” The safety council further estimates that 25% of all motor vehicle crashes involve cell phone use.
Though car accidents involving cell phones may not always be able to be definitively quantified, the number of text-while-driving tickets issued annually can be. Tickets issued in New York escalated 82% from 2012 to 2013, even after a texting-while-driving ban was set in effect in 2009.
Police officers issued approximately 55,000 tickets in 2013, in comparison to the approximate 30,000 tickets issued in 2012 (WGRZ.com). Law enforcement officials recognize texting as a fatal distracted driving issue, and studies continue to be conducted to portray these concerns.