Multiple studies show no improvement in distracted driving

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As we’ve reported in the past, the death toll on US roads keeps increasing despite ever-safer vehicles. And people are overwhelmingly to blame; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calculates that 97 percent of all fatal crashes are due to human error. One factor in all this unsafe road behavior is distracted driving, and the past few weeks have seen my inbox bombarded with new studies on the topic. After a while, a deluge like that becomes hard to ignore, so I figured it was time to sit down and read through them. And the findings reveal that drivers aren’t really getting any better about focusing on the road.

The various reports use a number of different methodologies: combing through NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Report System (FARS), data collected from smartphone apps, plus surveys of drivers and companies. So taken together, they ought to give us a decent picture of the problem. As we’ll see, however, you can infer very different things depending on how you look at the data, particularly when you try to break it down geographically. Let’s start with the analyses of NHTSA’s crash data.

Safewise looked at FARS data for 2016 (the most recent year with complete data) to investigate the prevalence of distracted driving. It found that nine percent of all road fatalities, and six percent of driver fatalities, were caused by distracted driving and that the total number of deaths had increased by 14 percent in just two years. It then broke things down by state; the deadliest place to drive appears to be Mississippi, with 23.1 deaths per year for every 100,000 people. Alabama and South Carolina also exceeded 20 deaths per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the District of Columbia is the safest place to drive, with just four deaths per 100,000 people. For context, the national average for the country was 11.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

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Source: Ars Technica

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