National Phone Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors

Author: P. Christopher Guedri

Distracted drivers cause car accidents.  Every day, on our roads and highways, distracted drivers cause collisions that seriously injure and kill innocent people.[1] Many times these are friends or family members who are in the vehicle with them.

When a driver takes his or her focus away from the primary task of driving, the risk of being involved in a car crash immediately increases. What are people really doing while they are driving? Why do drivers get so distracted? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a recent survey (11/2010 - 12/2010) to look at distracted driving behaviors and attitudes of drivers over the age of 18. Over 6,000 drivers across the country participated in the telephone survey. Here is a look at some of the results.[2]

Participants described their driving habits, cell phone use, and their opinions on statewide distracted driving laws. Once the results were compiled, there were some common behaviors found amongst all survey participants regardless of where they lived, their age, or their gender. Talking to other passengers while driving was the number one distracted driving behavior; over 80% of the survey participants admitting to this behavior. Other frequent distractions included changing the music (65%), eating and drinking while driving (45%), and talking on the phone (40%). How many of these actions have you done while driving?

The survey results showed that men, more often than women, use personal navigation systems while driving and listen to portable music players with headphones. Women are distracted more often than men by children in the back seat. Young drivers (under 25) admitted reading or sending text messages while driving at a rate two to three times more often than any other age group. Opinions on the need for state laws about distracted driving, especially the use of cell phones or smart phones, were widely favorable.  The majority of survey participants supported laws for banning handheld cell phone use while driving (71%)  and banning the ability to text or e-mail while driving ( 94%).

In order to change public behavior, we must all change our perceptions and attitudes about distracted driving. Surveys such as this can offer insight into what people are most distracted by while driving. This information offers opportunities to raise awareness that will reduce distracted driving activities and reduce the number of car crashes on the roads.  If people understand the increased likelihood of a motor vehicle crash that comes from certain distracted driving behaviors, hopefully they will be less likely to engage in these behaviors and the roads will be safer for all of us.

About the Author: Richmond, VA personal injury attorney Chris Guedri has over 30 years of experience handing catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. Chris is also experienced in handling bus accidents, trucking accidents and car accident cases in Richmond and throughout Virginia, some involving traumatic brain injury (TBI). Recognized by his peers as a superb litigator, Chris has been listed in the book Best Lawyers in America since 1995 and in 2008 he was inducted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, an organization of attorneys who are elected to membership based on their reputation for excellence. He has also been included among the "Legal Elite Best Lawyers in Virginia" by Virginia Business Magazine.

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