When you think of horrible auto crashes (unfortunately I do…lots) what do you think of first when it comes to causation? I think most people would think drunk driving, for good reason. Speeding, or otherwise disobeying traffic laws? Sure, that has to be a biggie, right?

In reality, it is not even close. Distracted driving is the “winner”. Not really winner, actually loser. According to statistics kept by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Distracted driving continues to be the number one leading cause of car accidents in America. Talking on the phone, texting, eating, reading, grooming, and talking are just some of the ways drivers get distracted behind the wheel.

Of course, an ever growing percentage of “distracted” drivers are distracted by that cell phone or other electronic device that so very many of us have become so accustomed to using almost constantly. The NHTSA data make it clear that using the device on the road is killing us and making our roads less safe. Let me give an example. You are driving down the highway at 55 mph. Your phone is right there, as always (I know I feel naked without mine). Bing! A text from aunt Edna!. I am a good driver, I can read a short text, maybe even respond. The average “quick” response takes a mere five seconds. At 55 miles an hour, that is almost 100 yards of barreling Detroit steel being wielded by a pilot with his (or her) eyes on the screen. If you think about that, an entire football field, maybe Edna can wait!

The NHTSA data also addresses drunk and impaired driving. The data shows that of the 37,461 motor vehicle crash fatalities in 2016, 28% involved a driver that was alcohol impaired (had a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, a level which is considered impaired in all 50 states). That is really a stunning number. The numbers on alcohol related fatalities have actually improved since 2007. In 2007, 41,259 people were killed in the US in traffic accidents, 32% involving a driver impaired by alcohol. This seems to show that less people are dying on our highways in traffic crashes overall. This is likely due to improved safety features on our cars as well as less alcohol related deaths (my conclusions, not the governments).

It seems to me that technology givith and technology taketh away. We have safer vehicles to drive these days with loads of safety features. However, we also have an entire generation that has grown up with our devices and we cannot seem to keep our hands (and eyes) off them while driving. I, for one, have sworn off texting (and other electronic device-type activity) while driving. Do you?

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