You hear a lot about the dangers of distracted driving. Many states have passed laws to stop you from using your phone while driving. Yet, a new study ranks distracted driving only fifth in the reason for crashes. Does that mean it is not as dangerous as people say?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) worked out the leading factors behind fatal crashes. Distracted driving was the primary factor in 2,688 collisions where someone lost their life. By contrast, driving too fast claimed 8,596 lives.
What are the leading causes of vehicle accidents?
Here are the top five factors in vehicle crashes, along with the percentage of fatal events they are responsible for:
- Driving too fast: 16.7%
- Driving under the influence: 10.1%
- Drifting out of the lane: 7.2%
- Failing to yield: 7%
- Distracted driving: 5.2%
Road safety campaigns target drivers who speed, drive under the influence or drive while distracted. Yet you never see posters telling you that drifting out of the lane or failing to yield could be fatal.
The NHTSA report only allocates one factor per crash. It chooses the main reason for the accident. So if a driver is distracted and fails to notice a junction, they will not stop and give way. If they crash, it will go in the “failing to yield” category even though distracted driving was a contributing factor.
If a driver eating a sandwich drifts across the lane and collides with another vehicle, the NHTSA put “drifting out of lane” as the primary cause.
Distracted driving plays a role in more vehicle crashes than the figures suggest. If injured in a crash it is crucial to investigate all the factors that led to it.