Distracted Drivers Who Cause Fatal Crashes

texting and driving pixlr

April was National Distracted Driver Month. New statistics show why this awareness effort is so needed and so worthwhile.

Despite previous public educational campaigns to the dangers of driving distracted, this careless behavior is apparently on the rise.  According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, between 2018 and 2019, the number of people killed by distracted drivers jumped 10%.

That’s one of the more alarming numbers contained in NHTSA’s newest report on distracted driving, which was released this month (“Distracted Driving 2019”).  That is the most recent year for finalized data.  It is also the year that 3,142 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.

This number includes more than 500 pedestrians and bicyclists killed by distracted drivers in 2019. Another 424,000 people were hurt in distracted-driving crashes.

Cell Phone Use A Top Distraction in Fatal Car Crashes

All totaled, distracted drivers were responsible for 9% of all fatal car crashes in 2019. By NHTSA’s own admission, reporting and crash investigation limitations mean that the number of fatal distracted driver crashes are probably under-reported. A surviving distracted driver may not admit his or her careless behavior to law enforcement, for example.

Not surprisingly, NHTSA found that cell phone use was a top distraction for drivers, accounting for 13% of all fatal distracted-driving crashes.  This “cell phone use” category includes:

  • Talking on a cell phone while driving
  • Texting on a cell phone while driving
  • Reading a text while driving

Drivers distracted by cell phone use in Missouri may be a bigger concern than in most states.  That’s because the Show-Me State does not ban drivers, regardless of age, from talking on a cell phone while driving.

Missouri and Montana are the only states to not completely ban texting while driving. Only drivers 21 years old or younger are prohibited from texting while driving on Missouri’s roads.  Missouri also lacks a total ban for drivers using cell phones in a hand-held fashion.

Fortunately, federal law is a little tougher on commercial over-the-road truckers when it comes to cell phone use.  Those truck drivers cannot use cell phones in a hands-held fashion for any reason in Missouri and all other states.

Other Common Distractions While Driving

While cell phone use is an obvious and well-known driving distraction, it is not the only one.  In addition to talking on or texting with a cell phone while driving, NHTSA’s report also documented these other dangerous driving distractions:

  • Eating or drinking while driving
  • Smoking – includes lighting a cigarette or dispensing ashes
  • Adjusting the radio or climate controls
  • Adjusting side view mirrors or interior lighting
  • Reaching for an object while driving, such as headphones or laptop
  • Driver distracted by a passenger
  • Driver daydreaming or otherwise inattentive to the road

Some of these distractions may take a driver’s focus of the road only briefly.  But those few moments of inattention can be life-changing.  NHTSA says that 5 seconds of driving 55 mph while distracted is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

These federal data show that drivers 15-20 years old had the largest percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes – 8% - than any other age group. But the data also show that those up to the age of 45 had a disproportionate amount of drivers involved in fatal distracted-driving crashes.

While reporting these dismal numbers, NHTSA also provides some common-sense suggestions for curbing distracted driving:

  • Pull off the road if you have to read or send a text
  • Designate a passenger to handle cell phone communications – phone calls or texts
  • Store the cell phone in the trunk to avoid the urge to use it while driving

But as this latest report indicates, there are still too many careless drivers who don’t follow these suggestions, as the more than 3,100 victims of distracted drivers in 2019 are a clear reminder.

If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one in a car crash caused by another driver, turn to a personal injury attorney to investigate if they were negligently driving distracted.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles May 14, 2021

Related Practice Areas

Jump to Page

By using this site, you agree to our updated Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use.