More than 90% of car crashes involve human error.* Being an attentive and alert driver can help prevent crashes that lead to unintentional injury and death. With the rapid adoption of smartphones in the United States,distracted drivinghas become a hot topic in traffic safety. While cell phones and navigation devices often are the culprit when it comes to distracted driving, conventional distractions such as interacting with passengers and eating also contribute to crashes. Distracting tasks can affect drivers in different ways and can be categorized asvisual, manual, and cognitive distraction.
The National Safety Council (NSC) analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data finds that 2,841 people died in distraction-affected crashes in 2018. This is a decrease of 12% from 3,242 deaths in 2017, and the third consecutive yearly decrease. See Data Details to understand the data limitations and potential underestimation of the number of distracted-affected crashes.
Sources: Singh, S. (2018, March). Critical reasons for crashes investigated in the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey. (Traffic Safety Facts Crash Stats. Report No. DOT HS 812 506). Washington, DC: NHTSA.
How Common is Driver Cell Phone Use?
Over the last seven years, the prevalence of drivers using hand-held cell phones at any given daylight moment has decreased from 5.2% of drivers in 2012 to 3.2% in 2018. The slight increase from the 2017 record low of 2.9% was not statistically significant. These figures are from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) conducted by NHTSA, which is the only national estimate of driver cell phone use based on driver observations. NHTSA also estimates that 9.7% of drivers were using some type of phone, either handheld or hands-free, at typical daylight moment in 2018. Because of changes to the estimate method, this overall estimate is not comparable to previous years.
The percent of drivers manipulating hand-held electronic devices has increased 1,500%, from 0.2% in 2005 to 3.2% in 2018, but has decreased from the record high of 4.3% in 2014. Among other activities, this observation includes text messaging as well as manipulating devices such as MP3 players. Drivers observed with visible headsets remains low at 2.1% in 2018.