Drunk driving accounts for nearly a third of all traffic-related deaths in the United States, with approximately one death occurring every hour. We have a long history with drunk driving: In 1906, New Jersey became the first state to adopt a law that specifically criminalized intoxicated driving. Since then, federal and state laws have been enacted and activist groups formed to discourage drunk driving, which has resulted in a steady decline and increasing stigmatization of the behavior. Unfortunately, new data shows that drunk driving may not be the greatest threat on the road anymore.
The advent, adoption and obsession with smartphones has led to an equally serious epidemic – distracted driving – which has overtaken drunk driving as consumers’ top safety concern on the road. A recent in-house survey shows that sixty-three percent of drivers are more afraid of distracted drivers on the road than they are of drunk drivers. And that fear is not unfounded: 75 percent of drivers see other drivers using their phones while driving every single day, and 45 percent see phone distraction on the road multiple times a day.
Smartphones may not be the only cause of distraction on the road, but they certainly top the list. Data shows top distractions drivers experience include:
- Navigation (27 percent)
- Text messages (30 percent)
- Phone calls (32 percent)
- Other passengers (44 percent)
While the prevalence of drunk driving has been well documented for decades, we don’t yet know the full impact of distracted driving, because accident reporting in most states does not cover it. In particular, only 11 states have “mobile-phone distraction” as a factor on accident reports from police, and only 27 states allow notation of “distraction” in general on such reports.