Causing Thousands of Auto Accidents Every Year
In 2018, distracted drivers were involved in nearly 16,000 traffic accidents in Colorado, resulting in 53 traffic fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the U.S. about nine people die every day and more than 1,000 people are injured every day in traffic accidents that involve a distracted driver.
Forms of Distraction
Distractions are everywhere. In recent months we’ve been bombarded with a new one in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you can get out and drive to escape being isolated at home, you can hardly avoid thinking about the situation, and perhaps your mind will wander from the road as a result.
But being aware of this possibility — as well as the danger of other forms of distraction — can help you stay focused and safe.
There are three main kinds of distraction: manual, visual, and cognitive. Common forms of manual and visual distraction include reviewing GPS instructions and adjusting volume or navigation controls; eating and smoking; talking to other passengers; dealing with an unrestrained pet in the vehicle; and slowing down to look at a traffic accident or some other incident on the road.
The premier source of distraction is the smartphone. According to the National Safety Council:
The percent of drivers manipulating hand-held electronic devices has increased 1,500%, from 0.2% in 2005 to 3.2% in 2018, but has decreased from the record high of 4.3% in 2014. Among other activities, this observation includes text messaging as well as manipulating devices such as MP3 players.
Colorado is not immune to the problem. When Colorado Public Radio sent reporters to five intersections where Denver auto accidents often occur, the reporters observed a total of 354 instances of distracted driving within a single hour, likely an undercount given the difficulty of watching all of the traffic simultaneously and other obstacles.
We counted distracted driving as anyone visibly using their phones or other devices and doing anything else that took their eyes off of the road….
Few people were trying to hide that they were talking on their phones. Most held the devices in front of their mouths, as if they were DJs at a radio station microphone.
We saw a driver using both hands to fiddle with a vape pen, presumably steering by knee. Another looking at a dog at the side of the road rather than at the road. Another reaching for something on the floor.
In Colorado, 43 car accidents a day are attributable to distracted drivers, accounting for nearly 13 percent of all crashes in the state.
Colorado survey highlights top distractions.
In early 2019, the Colorado Department of Transportation conducted a statewide survey of 759 residents. (This total includes the 11% who responded to a survey mailed to 5,000 homes as well as the participants in an online panel.) Most respondents admitted to succumbing to distraction while driving at least once within the last seven days. Seventy-one percent reported selecting entertainment on a handheld device while driving within the last week; 65 percent reported eating while driving; 63 percent reported hands-free use of a cell phone.
In Colorado, it is illegal for any driver younger than 18 to use a phone while driving and anyone at all to text while driving. Proposed legislation would also ban any adult from using a phone while driving unless the usage is hands-free. If the law is enacted, Colorado will join 20 other states that impose similar mandates.