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Facts and Statistics About Distracted Driving

Every year, nearly 3,000 people die in car crashes due to distracted driving.1 These are preventable accidents, caused by someone not paying attention at the wheel. If you need another reason to keep your eyes on the road and stay focused, here are four facts and statistics about distracted driving.

Fact 1: There are several ways you can get distracted while driving.

Distracted driving can happen a few different ways — visually, manually or cognitively. Here, we’ll cover the main types of distractions so you can be on alert.1,2

  • Visual distractions:

    This happens when you stop looking at the road, even for a second. It can happen when you look at a passenger in the back, up at a billboard or down at your phone. It can even happen when you check your GPS system to get directions. It’s incredibly easy to be visually distracted while driving.

  • Manual distractions: 

    This type of distraction happens when you take your hands off the wheel. For example, you might continue your morning routine in the car by eating breakfast, drinking coffee or putting on makeup. Many things you do in your vehicle likely can be considered manual distractions, like adjusting the radio, reading directions or answering a phone call. The safest way to operate your vehicle is with both hands on the wheel.

  • Cognitive distractions:

    Our minds can wander, even while we’re driving. A cognitive distraction is when you’re thinking about something other than driving. You’re more at risk for a cognitive distraction when you’re with another passenger, on the phone chatting, daydreaming or if you simply have too much on your mind. 

Distracted driving can happen easily, and the truth is, many people are at risk. In fact, more than 70% of drivers admit to being distracted on a daily basis.3

The good news is that there are steps you can take to be more focused on the road. Here are a few:

  • Get ready before getting in the car.

  • Activate your phone’s setting to automatically alert callers and texters that you’re driving. If your phone doesn’t have this setting, put it on silent or airplane mode.

  • Listen to music at a low volume.

  • Avoid arguments or heated conversations in the car.

If you have kids, then you probably know that whether they’re arguing in the backseat or singing songs, children can be distracting while you’re driving. If possible, teach your children that it’s important for you to stay focused on the road. Tell them you need to wait until you get to your destination before addressing some of their needs. If it can’t wait, pull over to a safe spot first.

Fact 2: Most drivers get distracted, even knowing it’s risky.

As mentioned above, more than half of all drivers are distracted on a daily basis. Yet, most people (87%) know that being distracted, and especially texting while driving, is incredibly dangerous.3

Why? Our culture is increasingly on-the-go, and there are expectations to always be available. According to one survey, a quarter of participants felt pressured to answer work-related calls while driving, either because they thought it was an emergency or they feared consequences from their manager.3

Here are a few other facts about distracted driving:3

  • The peak time for distracted driving is between 4 and 7 p.m.

  • Friday is the most distracted day of the week, while Tuesday is the least.

  • Most distractions happen while a driver is moving at 45 mph.

Distracted driving can happen any day of the week, and at any time. But Friday, late afternoon seems to carry the highest risk. As you drive this week, whether it’s to work or around town, take note of when you’re most distracted, whether it’s by passengers, food or phone calls. You may notice a pattern in your own life. Then be extra careful to stay focused.

Fact 3: Young adult and teen drivers are most at risk.

A quarter of all distracted driving crashes involve someone age 20 to 29.1 And teen drivers age 15 to 19 are even more likely to be distracted while driving. Distracted driving, coupled with the inexperience of teen drivers, can be cause for serious concern.
Fortunately, if you’re the parent of a teen or young adult, there are steps you can take to help protect your kids. Here are a few:1

  • Be a good example.

    Your teen or young adult watches you, and despite being older now, will still model your behavior. It’s especially important to practice what you preach and be focused on the road. Stay off your cellphone and avoid multitasking while driving. 

  • Talk with your teen or young adult.

    Explain the importance of staying focused while driving. You can use statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.S. Department of Transportation to explain the severity of the problem.

  • Encourage speaking up.

    Teens and young adults are easily influenced by their peers. They should speak up if they see a peer texting or otherwise distracted while driving. Sometimes, that’s the best way to deliver the message.

  • Set consequences.

    Sign a pledge with your teen or young adult driver. If the pledge is broken, set firm consequences. Remember, safety begins with you setting rules in your own family.

  • Rely on a driving app.

    Technology has come a long way and can even help keep your teen safe on the road. Apps can monitor your teen’s location and driving speed, as well as silence text messages and phone calls.4

As a parent, you have tremendous influence on your teen or young adult. It’s important to use that influence to teach them to stay safe on the road — for their sake and for the sake of others.

Fact 4: New car technology may actually be more distracting.

If you just bought a new car, it’s probably packed with new features. But some of these features can be more distracting than others, and, therefore, unsafe. For example, some car phone systems can take five steps to make a call, while others only take two. Just because you have hands-free calling doesn’t mean it’s distraction free. The truth is, you’re safest when you avoid phone calls, texts and extra notification sounds altogether.5

But keep in mind, not all new car technology is bad. In fact, there are many safety features that can save you money on insurance and help protect your family, too. The key is using this technology the right way — and being aware of your risk for distraction.

Staying safe on the road takes commitment. You can have safety features in your vehicle, but if you don’t use them properly or if your mind wanders, you’re still at risk. If you think you may be a distracted driver, it’s critical to understand the potential consequences and make a vow to change. This may require you to change your routine (that is, eating or getting ready earlier) or telling your colleagues you’re unavailable when you’re on the road.

Just remember, it’s worth it. Your safety — and the safety of your family and others on the road — is the priority.

1 Distracted Driving, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021.
2 Youth for Road Safety.
3 Facts About Distracted Driving, Forbes, 2021.
4 5 of the Best Teen Driving Apps for Parents, HelloTech, 2019.
5 Distracted by Tech While Driving? The Answer May Be More Tech, New York Times, 2019.

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