Driver Distraction Remains a Growing Factor in Traffic Crashes

Published on April 06, 2021

Girl looking at her phone while driving

Weld County – April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month, and the latest statistics for traffic fatalities show a troubling trend. The number of people killed on U.S. roads and highways last year is the highest it’s been in 13 years – 42, 060, according to new estimates from the National Safety Council.

Driver distraction is a factor in a growing percentage of those fatalities. More than 3,100 people died in distraction-related crashes in 2019 – up 10 percent over the previous year. Many experts believe the actual numbers are even higher than officially reported, with distraction a factor in as many as 25 percent of all crashes. Research shows that more than a third of all U.S. drivers admitted to talking or texting while behind the wheel. In Weld County, 90 percent of respondents to the 2019 Community Health Survey admitted to talking on the phone while driving and 69 percent admitted to texting or emailing when driving.

“Talking and texting on cell phone, while the most talked-about cause of driver distraction, is not the only thing that can distract a driver,” said Kelly Martinez, DRIVE SMART Weld County Coalition Coordinator, a non-profit group that promotes safe driving behavior. “Seemingly harmless things like tuning the radio, adjusting the GPS, eating, or drinking can take a driver’s mind off the road, with potentially deadly results. Even talking to other passengers can be a dangerous distraction. Part of the solution is simply becoming aware of what creates driver distraction and remembering that drivers mush always keep their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and their mind on the task of driving.”

States nationwide have responded with laws outlawing cell phone use by drivers. Forty-eight states including Colorado, ban texting while driving. The risk of distraction is especially high for teen drivers. Nine percent of drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in 2019 fatal crashes were reported as distracted.

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