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Understanding the deadly impact of distracted driving

On Behalf of | May 16, 2024 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Imagine you’re behind the wheel, cruising along the roads of Virginia, Maryland or the National Capital Region. You might not think twice about glancing at your phone or adjusting the radio. But the truth is, these split-second distractions can have life-altering consequences.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Virginia ranks No. 9 in the nation for fatal crashes due to distracted driving. It’s a sobering reminder that every moment of inattention can be the difference between a safe journey and a tragic outcome.

Distracted driving: More than just a glance away

When you’re driving, it’s not just about keeping your eyes on the road. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes distractions into three types:

  • Visual: Anything that draws your eyes away from the road, even for a second. This could be a new text message, an eye-catching billboard or the temptation to look at an accident.
  • Manual: These occur when your hands leave the wheel. It might seem harmless to grab a quick bite or change the playlist, but these actions can significantly reduce your control over the vehicle.
  • Cognitive: Often overlooked, these distractions take your mind off the act of driving. Whether it’s a heated conversation or worries about your day, mental distractions can be just as dangerous as physical ones.

By recognizing and mitigating these distractions, you can help ensure the safety of everyone on the road.

Key distracted driving facts

Since 2012, NHTSA has reported over 29,000 distracted driving deaths in the United States. Here are other troubling statistics:

  • In 2020 alone, 3,142 lives were cut short due to distracted driving incidents, emphasizing the gravity of this issue on our roads.
  • Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, drivers’ average time on their phones per hour has jumped by 30.3%, a significant factor in distraction-related accidents.
  • Nine people die every day in the U.S. from distracted driving crashes.
  • In 2020, distracted drivers killed 587 bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Distracted driving peaks in the evening, between 6 and 11 p.m., with drivers distracted for nearly two minutes per driving hour, increasing the risk of accidents during these times.
  • Despite various causes of driver distraction, cell phone use plays a part in 12% of car accidents, highlighting the need for continued focus on reducing phone-related distractions.

Many states have taken action to reduce distractions. Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and 21 other states have banned handheld cell phone use while driving. Every state except Montana and Missouri has laws banning texting and driving.

Several driver education programs, like NHTSA’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign, focus on the risks and devastating costs of distracted driving. If a distracted driver harms you or someone you love, it’s advisable to seek guidance from an experienced legal professional.