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National, State and El Paso County Distracted Driving Statistics

Every day we are surrounded by drivers who are talking away on their cell phones, texting while driving or catching up on their Facebook feed.  A lot of us understand that distracted driving is bad but fail to take a look in the mirror at our own faults when it comes to distracted driving.  We can handle it, we are good multitaskers.  We always keep one eye on the road while we text and drive.  Does this sound like you? I am not proud to admit that I have held these views.

I am the first to admit that I have been guilty in the past.  Like a lot of us, I was under the belief that I could handle using my phone and driving at the same time.  However, when I looked at the statistics and saw firsthand through my representation of victims of distracted driving crashes, I came to the realization that distracted driving is devastating.  My research has shown that distracted driving is just as bad or worse than drunk driving.  These are some of the statistics that I have compiled which made me take the zero- tolerance pledge to not drive distracted.

We all know that distracted driving is dangerous, but just how dangerous is it?   These are questions that I asked myself as I came to understand just how dangerous distracted driving really is.

Distracted Driving Death and Injury Statistic Summary

The following are the reported deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving reported in 2016:

  • Nation:  3,450 Deaths and over 390,000 Serious Injuries
  • Texas:  455 Deaths and 3,087 Serious Injuries
  • El Paso County: 9 Deaths and 471 Serious Injuries.

Distracted Driving Defined

Anything that diverts a driver’s attention away from the road contributes to distracted driving.  The most obvious and pervasive distracted driving risk is by operating a mobile device while driving, but there are numerous situations and objects inside a vehicle which can lead to distracted driving.  Distracted driving is defined as “when a driver’s attention is diverted away from driving by a secondary task that requires focusing on an object, event, or person not related to the driving task.”[1]  Common scenarios that may lead to distracted driving include operating the radio, adjusting the air conditioning or heating, tending to a child, focusing on another passenger, applying makeup, eating, or using a map or the car’s navigation system.  The new technology that comes standard in all vehicles comes with risks, as satellite radios, in-dash touchscreen computers and GPS systems can divert a driver’s eyes off of the road. 

How Bad Are People at Driving While Using Their Mobile Phone?

A lot of people like to think that they are multi-tasking masters and that they are not impaired by checking that text message or answering that phone call.  Research proves otherwise.[2]  Most people are not able to multi-task.  Rather, most people are task-switchers and their minds are not able to focus on more than one task at a time.  When additional tasks are added or tasks become more complex, switching takes longer which causes task overload. Many psychologists have concluded by extensive research that when people task switch, productivity is significantly reduced.

Even when a driver thinks he is “looking” at the road, she may not be “seeing” the road. Distracted driving takes the driver’s minds off of the task at hand—operating the vehicle.  Distracted drivers engage in “intentional blindness” because they fail to notice and respond to the visual cues that they can see.  Someone driving while on a cell phone may see a road construction sign but fail to process that he needs to stop because of this type of intentional blindness.[3]

When it comes to the ability to multi task while driving, virtually everyone gets a failing grade.  While driving 55 MPH, a car covers in excess of 80 feet every second. When a person sends a text or reads a message, the driver can take his eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.  In that time, the driver will travel the length of a football field without any visual guidance.[4] The overall crash risk increases 3.6 times when a driver uses his or her mobile phone while driving versus a person who engages in model driving (both hands on the wheel, eyes and ears on the road).[5]

How Many People Drive Distracted?

Distracted driving is a pervasive problem.  Studies show that nearly one-third of all drivers between the age of 16-64 read or send text or email messages while driving.[6]  Another study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that drivers of passenger vehicles are distracted more than 50 percent of the time. This distraction doubles the risk of crashing. According to the study, nearly 70 percent of the crashes the researchers analyzed involved some type of observable distraction.[7]

Deaths and Injuries in 2016

Today, distracted driving is one of the most dangerous driving hazard and contributes to countless injuries and deaths every single day.  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released its Fatal Traffic Crash Data for 2016.  In 2016, there were 3,450 fatalities caused by distracted drivers.  That equals 9 deaths every single day caused by driver distraction.  Every year, there are over 390,000 injuries caused because of distracted driving.  That equals to approximately 1050 injuries caused by distracted drivers every day. The NHTSA reports that in 2014, distracted related crashes accounted for ten percent of fatal crashes; 18 percent of injury crashes; and 16 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes.[8]

In Texas, 3773 fatalities occurred in motor vehicle crashes in 2016.  1 person was killed every 2 hours and 20 minutes on Texas roads.  There were over 14,000 traffic accidents causing significant injuries in Texas with over 17,000 people injured in those crashes. TxDOT Executive Director James Bass recently stated in a press release that, “One in five crashes in Texas is caused by distracted driving,”.  Last year, 109,658 traffic crashes in Texas involved distracted driving which resulted in 455 deaths and 3,087 serious injuries.[9]

In El Paso County alone, there were 7 fatal crashes killing 9 people caused by distracted driving in 2016.  There were 471 incapacitating and non-incapacitating injuries caused by distracted driving in El Paso County in 2016.[10]

Why Do These Statistics Matter?

We owe it to ourselves, to our families, to our passengers and to the motoring public not to drive distracted.  I will be the first person to admit that I have texted or talked while driving.  Maybe I was late to court and needed to send a quick email to my assistant.  Maybe I was checking in at the house to see what we were having for dinner.  It has dawned on me through my representation of people that have been injured because of distracted driving, that there is zero wiggle room when it comes to texting or talking while driving.  Whatever the excuse, there is simply no reason that I nor anyone else should have been doing it. I have personally taken the pledge to not drive distracted.  When I get in my car, I place the phone in the arm rest compartment and don’t take it out until I have arrived at my destination.  Harmonson Law Firm is committed to doing our part by not engaging in distracted driving while on the job or otherwise.  If you need me or anyone else while driving, we will call you or text you back when we safely arrive at our destination. 

How about you?  Will you take the zero-tolerance pledge to not drive distracted?

S. Clark Harmonson is a personal injury lawyer and the managing partner of Harmonson Law Firm located in El Paso, Texas.  Harmonson Law Firm represents victims of distracted driving throughout Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  You can reach us at (915) 584-8777 or contact us online at https://www.clarkharmonsonattorney.com/contact-us/.

 

[1] Ranney, T. A. (2008). Driver distraction: A review of the current state-of-knowledge (Report No. DOT HS 810 787).

Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Available at

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0b43/68899ff974a8167b888ffed49f80270a43b3.pdf

[2] American Psychological Association. (2006, March 20). Multitasking: Switching costs. (Web page). Washington,

DC: Author. Available at http://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx; Rubinstein, J. S., Meyer, D. E., & Evans, J. E. (2001). Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human

Perception and Performance; 27(4): 763-797.

[3] Simons, D. J., & Chabris, C. F. (1999). Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events.

Perception 28: 1059-1074.

[4] Olson, R. L., Hanowski, R. J., Hickman, J. S., & Bocanegra, J. (2009). Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle

Operations. (Report No. FMCSA-RRR-09-042). Washington, DC: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

[5] Dingus, T. A., Guo, F., Lee, S., Antin, J. F., Perez, M., Buchanan-King, M., & Hankey, J. (2016). Driver crash risk

factors and prevalence evaluation using naturalistic driving data." W. J. Horrey, Ed. Proceedings of the National

Academy of Sciences 113.10: 2636-641.

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mobile Device Use While Driving – United States and Seven European

Countries, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 15, 2013/62(10); 177-182.

[7] Found at https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2016/03/major-distractions-for-drivers/472656/

[8] Found at www.crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812260

[9] Found at https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/media-center/statewide-news/018-2017.html

[10] Found at http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2016/31.pdf