A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study cited 3,000 people killed in distraction-related crashes in 2020, accounting for eight percent of all traffic fatalities. The NHTSA also notes that the number could be much higher, considering that difficulty in determining distracted driving plays a role in an accident.
The IIHS surveyed more than 2,000 drivers nationwide regarding secondary tasks performed while driving, both run-of-the-mill and smartphone-related, both hands-on and hands-free. Additional categories included talking, texting, and other device uses ranging from programming a destination in a navigation app or viewing social media feeds.
Nearly two-thirds admitted to one or more distracting activities during most drives, the most common being navigation apps. Additional distractions included streaming music and texting. Playing games accounted for eight percent of respondents. Seven out of ten claimed to use voice commands for those distracting tasks. The study notes that hands-free is somewhat of a misnomer in that the technology requires drivers to conduct manual operations
Not surprisingly, drivers from 18 to 34 years old are most likely to use apps while behind the wheel. Even more alarming are parents of children 18 and younger who are setting a bad example for their children. They are sixty-five percent more likely to become distracted by device-based tasks and 47 percent more likely to perform secondary activities with a smartphone.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the thriving gig economy also makes roads more dangerous. Workers in the industry are four times as other drivers to use smartphone apps while traveling. It represents a problem that doesn’t seem to have a solution, considering that the gigs require interactions that leads to distractions. Yet, for many drivers, smartphone use goes beyond professional applications involving customer and employer interactions.
While laws are in place to punish distracted drivers, far too many do not learn their lesson until they cause a dangerous and deadly accident.