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There Was a Dip in Distracted Driving Deaths in the U.S., but It's Not Enough
Distracted driving seems to be the silent killer on public roads in the last two decades, as fatalities keep adding up while people just pretend that they were doing something harmless when they get caught. According to the latest figures from the NHTSA, which refer to 2020, in the U.S. alone, 3,125 people lost their lives in vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving.

There Was a Dip in Distracted Driving Deaths in the U.S., but It's Not Enough

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As always, when you see figures that are difficult to comprehend, it may be difficult to grasp the scale of things. To help your imagination a bit, the average city bus has a maximum capacity of 100 people, and that involves having people on all seats, as well as having people sitting in every available space inside.

Now, if you have put two and two together with what you just read, 3,125 people mean 31 buses full of individuals. If you heard that 31 buses that were full of people got involved in accidents that led to the death of all those passengers, you would not want to ride a bus to anywhere tomorrow, right? Not even if your life depended on it, some might add.

Well, those "31 buses" happened over the course of 2020, and there is a big chance that most people might not have noticed how many people died because of distracted driving that day, week, month, or year. But now we have figures again, and it is not something that should be taken lightly.

We are writing about preventable deaths, which would not have happened if drivers (and pedestrians) were not using their cell phones while on the road. At this point, you might think to yourself that all those crashes must have taken place because someone was texting while driving. It appears that the story is not that simple.

Instead, distracted driving can come in many forms, as Zutobi noted in its report based on data from the NHTSA. For example, reaching for moving objects inside the vehicle, looking at external objects, reading, applying makeup, eating, or having a distracting passenger in the adjacent seat or one in the rear seat are also situations where the driver was distracted.

If the driver does not pay full attention to the road ahead, they are distracted. It does not matter if the distraction comes in the form of a phone call, watching TikTok, trying to put out a small burn caused by a lit cigarette, looking for the cap for your water bottle in the passenger footwell, or anything else in between.

Many years ago, my father was hit by a car whose driver was involved in a fascinating conversation with their passenger. Fortunately, he survived the impact, which was at a low speed, but still, it is the kind of experience that anyone wants to forget and move past, but not everyone can – especially if they feel pain while walking. You get the point, don't you?

The situation described is a fortunate one, where the victim has remained alive, conscious, and can still move on their own without the use of crutches or anything like that. It could have been worse, though, and it was for many other people around the world.

By now, everyone is familiar with what discrimination means. Well, distracted driving does not do that. Everyone who can drive is capable of distracted driving, and everyone else around them can get hit by a vehicle driven by a distracted driver. There is no discrimination here, just risk everywhere you look.

Between 2015 and 2020, the total number of distracted driving crashes in the U.S. that resulted in an injury bounced between 265,000 and 295,000 per year. It was at its lowest level in 2020, with "just" 215,000. According to statistics, men are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal distracted driving accident when compared to women.

Figures have shown that male drivers were distracted in 2125 fatal crashes in 2020, while female drivers were distracted in 781 fatal crashes during the same year. While there are fewer crashes on one side, 781 people did not get home that day, and their loved ones are missing them.

New Mexico is the state where distracted driving is at its worst, with 10 deaths because of it for every 100,000 drivers, and 38 percent of all fatal crashes in the state are caused by this phenomenon. Up next are Kansas, Louisiana, Wyoming, Kentucky, Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii, Washington, and Virginia.

On the other side, Mississippi is the state with the fewest distracted driving fatalities, followed by California, Nevada, Connecticut, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Iowa, Georgia, Arkansas, and Delaware.

In case you were wondering about the impact of smartphones in all of this, about eight percent of crashes with injuries can be attributed to cellphone use, but the percentage grows if you look for the increased severity of the accident. In the case of fatal distracted driving accidents, 13 percent were caused by a driver using a cellphone.

Simply speaking with someone on a mobile phone with someone doubles the risk of an accident because of the way our brains work, while texting increases the risk by up to six times.

It takes about six seconds to read a text and reply with something simple, which means you take your eyes off the road while driving the length of a football field (360 feet or 91.44 meters) if you are going 55 mph (88 kph) while doing it.

Although we all have smartphones that can figure out how fast we are going, where we are looking, and guess what our next move will be, nobody has managed to develop a system to prevent people from texting while driving, for example.

I am not a programmer, but I do know that today's smartphones have cameras on the back as well as on the front, and with the whole machine learning and AI tech that is going about, someone could write software that could see a steering wheel, as well as a road, compare it to GPS data regarding velocity, and just block out texting while that happens.

Better yet, instead of waiting for someone else to create an app to stop you from texting while driving or from going live on Instagram/TikTok/Facebook while driving, stop yourself because you are an adult.

If someone gets killed by the vehicle you were supposed to be driving while you were being distracted, you will be trialed as an adult in court and held accountable as such. Ask yourself if the risk is worth it before looking at your phone while driving. Pro-tip: it never is.

Editor's note: For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows various images of people driving, the aftermath of accidents, along with other images.

 
 
 
 
 

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