Published on:

Study: U.S. Drivers Increasingly Distracted and Dangerous

If you have been in a car accident at some point in the last decade, chances are fairly strong at least one person behind the wheel of one of those cars was distracted. 

It seems this becomes more solidified with each passing study conducted on U.S. driving habits. The latest is one of the most comprehensive, funded by the federal government and conducted by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). Researchers attached sensors, radar and cameras to the vehicles of 3,500 participants and tracked their driving behavior over the course of a full three years – collecting 35 million miles of data in all.

In sifting through this data, researchers expected to see that distracted driving was a problem. However, the extent of the problem was a bit shocking. 

First of all, drivers were engaged in some type of distraction more than half the time. More than 50 percent of the time motorists were in control of a moving vehicle, they were also doing something else too, be it talking on the phone or eating or chatting with a passenger or even crying.

Orlando car accident lawyers know that operating a motor vehicle requires 100 percent of one’s attention. Although our society tends to require people to multi-task frequently, research has shown even those who can technically do two high-level things at once will not do them well. Driving a car is not one of those activities that allows for a significant margin of error.

So perhaps it is of little surprise that VTTI researchers discovered 7 out of every 10 crashes involved the driver engaged in some kind of distraction that was observable. And we should point out: Those are only the observable distractions noted in one of the vehicles involved. In cases where the crash was part of a multi-vehicle collision, researchers had no way of knowing what the driver(s) in the other car was up to.

As far as what type of distraction was most rampant, obviously cell phones were the biggest culprit. This goes a long way in explaining why, prior to the early 2000s, the U.S. had one of the lowest traffic fatality rates per mile in the developed world, but today, it ranks 17th of 29.

When it comes to specific activities and the role played in crash rates, the researchers discovered that one of the most dangerous behaviors behind the wheel was expression of negative emotion. Although this accounted for a relatively small percentage of overall driving habits (it was observed just 0.2 percent of the time), it increased the risk of a crash by 1,000 percent. In fact, a person who is crying, agitated, sad or extremely emotional is actually more likely to crash than someone who is drunk.

What was far more common, though, were cell phones. Texting was seen about 2 percent of the time, but increased the risk of a crash by six-fold. Talking on the phone was observed 3.25 percent of the time, but upped the risk of a car accident by more than double. Even simply reaching for a phone increased the odds of a crash by five times.

These findings yet again show us the importance of being sober, alert and attentive behind the wheel.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

U.S. Drivers are distracted more than half the time they’re behind the wheel, March 8, 2016, By Aarian Marshall,

More Blog Entries:

Fridman v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Ill. – Florida Supreme Court Takes on Bad Faith Insurer, March 8, 2016, Orlando Car Accident Attorney Blog

Contact Information