Federal statistics show that distracted driving is getting worse

For at least 20 years, government agencies and safety groups have warned us about the dangers of distracted driving. Motorists have always been susceptible to distractions like the radio, food and grooming while driving, but it was the introduction of the cellphone that made the problem a huge public safety menace.

Despite all these messages, distracted driving is not going away from Birmingham’s roads and highways. In fact, most American motorists seem to think the problem is worse than ever.

Worse now than a few years ago

In a 2023 survey reported by Insurance Journal, 70 percent of drivers believe that distracted driving is a bigger issue now than it was just a few years ago. This snapshot of how common distracted driving remains helps explain how distracted drivers were a factor in 8 percent of fatal car accidents and 14 percent of crashes that caused serious injuries in 2020, according to the NHTSA. In total, more than 3,100 people were killed and an estimated 324,654 injured in distracted driving accidents that year alone.

Common driver misbehavior

The lack of progress in reducing distracted driving seems to come down to drivers refusing to believe how dangerous it is. In the same survey mentioned above, 79 percent admitted talking on the phone while driving and around 56 percent said they text and drive. More than a quarter of respondents even acknowledged taking pictures with their phones and checking social media behind the wheel. About a third admitted they have nearly caused a car accident while driving distracted.

Habitual distracted drivers might think that because they have not caused a terrible wreck yet, it will never happen. But distractions like cellphones and other technology impair everyone equally. Shifting focus from the road onto your phone for even a few seconds can lead to disaster. And too often, it is a responsible motorist or passenger who suffers the consequences of a distracted driver’s negligence.

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