Distracted Driving is Still on the Rise

by Terry Bryant

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that drivers still aren’t taking the dangers of distracted driving seriously. IIHS researchers found that while the number of drivers actually talking on cell phones behind the wheel has decreased, using phones for other things that take drivers’ eyes off the road and hands off the wheel have sharply increased. Texting, searching the internet, getting directions, looking at social media, and other activities that involve holding cell phones while driving, or “manipulating” phones, as IIHS refers to it—are on the upswing, rising by 57% from 2014, when a similar study was performed, to 2018.

This kind of distracted driving behavior accounted for approximately 800 deaths on U.S. roadways in 2017, according to the Institute’s estimates.

IIHS Study Details

For the study, researchers positioned themselves at 12 locations in four Northern Virginia communities to observe drivers. Observation spots included intersections, straight roads, and roundabouts. Of the nearly 12,000 drivers the survey researchers studied, approximately 23% were engaging in at least one distracted driving behavior.

In addition to talking on cell phones, manipulating them or simply holding them, some of the other distracted behaviors included:

  • Holding or using another kind of electronic device
  • Wearing earbuds, headphones, or headsets
  • Using in-vehicle touchscreens and other systems
  • Grooming, such as putting on makeup or shaving
  • Reading printed materials
  • Eating, drinking, or smoking.

Sad Fatality Statistics

About 8% to 10% of crash deaths nationwide each year are attributable to distracted driving, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics. In 2017, 3,166 people died in distracted-driving accidents on the country’s roadways and highways.

In Texas, where many people don’t want to lose what they believe are their personal freedoms, including the right to use cell phones behind the wheel, one in five crashes involve distracted drivers, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reports. In 2017, that equaled 100,687 distracted-driving crashes that resulted in 444 people dying and another 2,889 being seriously injured.

Texas implemented a statewide law in 2017 making it illegal for people to read, write, or send a text while behind the wheel. How many people are actually still violating that law or how well it is being enforced by police isn’t necessarily clear. Also, holding a cell phone to talk while driving is still legal in Texas, although that could change in the future, and many cities have local ordinances prohibiting hand-held phone use.

What Can Be Done?

As a driver, you can help keep our roads safer by not being a distracted driver yourself. Put your phone away while driving. To make a call or send a text, pull over in a safe place. If you are anxious about not getting back to people immediately, enable the auto-reply function that will let people know you are driving and will get back to them later.

If you must talk on your phone, use Bluetooth to route calls through your car’s built-in audio system so you can be hands-free. And before you start out on trips, program navigational directions as well as music, podcasts, and other entertainment options into your phone before you back out of the driveway.

When you are on the road, stay away from vehicles that slow and accelerate erratically or weave in and out of lanes, which could mean a distracted driver is behind the wheel (or worse, a drunk driver). Also, keep your eyes open for drivers who are looking down, as they could be reading or writing texts.

If you or a loved one is injured in a crash caused by a distracted driver, the experienced car accident attorneys at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law are here to help. Call us at 713-973-8888 or toll-free 800-444-5000, or contact us through our online form.