Safety & Compliance

NHTSA: Nearly 10% of Fatal Crashes Involved Distracted Driving

September 24, 2012

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Distracted driving was cited as a contributing factor in nearly 10% of all fatal crashes in 2010, while that number nearly doubles (to 18%) for crashes where individuals were injured, according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The report studied all vehicle crashes in 2010, analyzing how influential distracted driving behaviors were in those crashes. (NHTSA notes that the numbers reported for 2010 should not be compared to the data collected for 2009, as the data collection methods are different.)

NHTSA found that 416,000 people were injured that year in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted drivers, while 3,092 people were killed in crashes where someone was exhibiting distracted driving behaviors.

Of the large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes, 5% were found to have been distracted, and 9% of those were distracted by their cell phones. (Handheld use of cell phones is prohibited by truck drivers operating interstate.) In comparison, of the passenger cars drivers in fatal crashes, 7% were found to have been distracted, and 14% of those were distracted by cell phone. Light-truck drivers showed similar results to passcar.

Cell phone usage was prevalent in both fatal and injury crashes, related to 408 deaths (13% of total distracted driving fatalities) and 24,000 injuries (6% of those injured in distraction-related crashes).

The report found that there was an age component to these numbers as well. Of drivers less than 20 years old involved in a fatal crash, 11% were found to be distracted at the time of the crash, making this age group the largest of all distracted drivers involved in a fatal crash. About 19% of this group was distracted by cell phones.

Other distractions listed included daydreaming, distracted by something outside like an animal on the road or a previous crash, and cell-phone related tasks such as reaching for the phone.

Additional findings from NHTSA's Distracted Driving 2010 report are available online.

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