Uncomfortable Truths About Distracted Driving


Distracted driving goes way beyond texting or talking on your cell phone. It includes everything from chatting with passengers to looking at billboards and bumper stickers to batting away the bug you just noticed on your dashboard.

Distracted driving is a major public health problem:  One study examining traffic fatalities reported by police officers blames distracted driving for 70% of them. Another cites it as the cause of 16% of all auto collisions. A poll asking people to self-report how often they “drive while distracted” found that distractions occur in at least 50% of all car trips.

Learning more about the dangers associated with distracted driving is an important step you can take right now. Here are some surprising facts that we encourage you to share with people you care about, with the goal of reducing the heartbreak caused by distracted driving!

There are many things that can distract us from the road, and daydreaming may be the most dangerous. The Fatality Analysis Reporting System examined the types of distractions that led to deaths in car collisions between 2011 and 2013 and found that:


  • Daydreaming or getting lost in thought led to 62% of these collisions
  • 12% were caused by using cellphones
  • A distraction outside the car (including a person or vehicle) caused 7% of the fatal collisions
  • 5% of the drivers were distracted by a passenger in their car
  • 6% were reaching for a device, eating or drinking or adjusting controls (such as heat or A/C) in their car (2% each)
  • 3% of the distractions were related to smoking, operating other tools in the car (like adjusting the rear view mirror), or an insect or pet in the car.


Beyond daydreaming, dialing your phone is the riskiest driving distraction. A study by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute shows the relative risk of engaging in a variety of activities while driving:


  • Dialing a phone brings a 12x greater risk of an collision or injury
  • Reading elevates risk ten times over – as does driving while crying or being angry
  • Reaching for something other than a cell phone (like your wallet) raises risk nine times
  • Texting increases risk six times over
  • Reaching for your phone ups risk five times
  • Reading an email triples the risk you’ll have an collison or injury


Despite awareness of the dangers, the number of people who use their cell phones for frivolous reasons while driving is truly alarming! An AT&T survey that asked people between the ages of 16 and 65 about what they do with their phones while driving found that:


  • 61% admit that they text while driving
  • 33% read and/or send emails
  • 17% use Facebook
  • 17% take selfies
  • 14% use Twitter, and of this group, 30% admit they do it “all the time”
  • 10% report video-chatting or using Instagram or Snapchat while driving


Distracted driving is not entirely avoidable – but many forms of it are. It was the cause of 3,254 deaths and more than 420,000 injuries in 2013 (the last year for which statistics are currently available). Let’s do our part to raise awareness and start paying attention to the truth about distracted driving!