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Distracted driving is driving while engaged in other activities which include using a cell phone, texting, eating, or reading. Activities such as these take the driver’s attention away from the road. Distractions while driving can be separated into three distinct groups: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distraction involves taking one's eyes off the road while manual distraction involves taking one's hands off the wheel. Cognitive distraction occurs when an individual takes their mind off of driving. All distractions compromise the safety of the driver, passengers, bystanders, and other individuals on the road. Distractions influenced by technology, especially text messaging or talking on the phone, require visual, manual, and cognitive attention of the driver, thus making these types of distractions particularly alarming. According to the United States Department of Transportation, "text messaging while driving creates a crash risk 23 times higher than driving while not distracted."  Despite these statistics, over 1/3 of drivers (37%) have sent or received text messages while driving, and 18% admit doing so regularly.
Exposure assessment 
According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2008, nearly 11% of drivers—approximately one million individuals—used a mobile device at some time. Additionally, 35-50% of drivers admit to cell phone use while driving. However, 90% of drivers fear those who do.
According to a HealthDay poll from November 2011, most adults who drive admit to engaging in distracted driving behaviors. This poll included 2,800 American adults and results indicated:
- Approximately 86% of drivers have admitted to occasionally eating or drinking while driving.
- Approximately 37% of drivers have texted while driving at least once while 18% of drivers have said they have formed the habit of doing it often.
- 41% of adult drivers have set or changed a GPS system while driving, and 21% do it “more frequently”.
- Approximately 36% of adult drivers have used a map as road guidance while driving.
- At least 1 out of every 5 drivers have admitted to combing or styling their hair while driving.
- Approximately 14% of drivers have applied makeup while driving.
- Approximately 13% of adult drivers have browsed the Internet while driving.
Data from this poll also revealed that younger drivers have a greater tendency to be involved in distracted driving than older individuals. Additionally, males have a greater tendency to engage in distracted driving activities such as driving while drowsy, after drinking alcohol, while reading a map, using a GPS system, or using the internet
Hazard assessment 
In September 2010, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report on distracted driving fatalities for 2009. The NHTSA considers distracted driving to include some of the following as distractions: other occupants in the car, eating, drinking, smoking, adjusting radio, adjusting environmental control, reaching for objects in car, and cell phone use. The report stated that 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 individuals were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Of those individuals killed, 995 were believed to be killed by drivers distracted by cell phones. The report does not state whether this is an under or over representation of the level of cell phone use amongst drivers, or whether there is a causal relationship.
The NHTSA states that 80% of accidents and 16% of highway deaths are the result of distracted drivers. The National Safety Council estimates 1.6 million (25%) of crashes annually are due to cell phone use and another 1 million (18%) are due to texting. These numbers equate to one accident every 24 seconds being attributed to distracted driving by cell phones. The National Safety Council also reported that speaking on a cell phone reduces focus on the road and act of driving by 37%, irrespective of hands-free option.
The US Department of Transportation estimates that reaching for a phone distracts a driver for 4.6 seconds, or the equivalent of the length of a football field, if the driver is traveling 55 miles per hour. It has been shown that reaching for something inside the vehicle increases accident risk by 9 times. Texting while driving increases the risk of an auto accident by 23 times.
A 2003 study of U.S. crash data states that driver inattention is estimated to be a factor in between 20 to 50 percent of all police-reported crashes. Driver distraction, a subcategory of in-attention, has been estimated to be a contributing factor in 8 to 13 percent of all crashes. Of distraction-related accidents, cell phone use may range from 1.5 to 5 percent of contributing factors, according to a 2003 study.
Currently, "outside person, object, or event" (commonly known as rubbernecking) is the most reported cause of distraction related accidents, followed by "adjusting radio/cassette player/CD". "Using/dialing cell phone" is the eighth most reported cause of distraction-related accidents.
Risk characterization 
The rising annual rate of fatalities from distracted driving corresponds to the number of cell phone subscriptions per capita and the average number of text messages per month. From 2009 to 2011, the amount of text messages sent has increased by nearly 50%.
Offenders of distracted driving are more likely to report driving while drowsy, going 20 miles-per-hour over the speed limit, driving aggressively, not stopping at a red light or stop sign, and driving under the influence of alcohol.
The Automobile Association of America (AAA) reports that younger drivers were overwhelmingly more likely than older drivers to text message and talk on cell phones while driving. However, the proportion of drivers aged 35 to 44 who reported talking on cell phones while driving is not significantly lower than those drivers aged 18 to 24 who report doing so.
Accident risk assessment 
In 2011, Shutko and Tijerina reviewed a large naturalistic study of in field operational tests on cars, heavy product vehicles, and commercial vehicles and buses and concluded that:
(a) Most of the collisions and near misses that occur involve inattention as a contributing factor.
(b) Visual inattention (looking away from the road scene) is the single most significant factor contributing to crash and near crash involvement.
(c) Cognitive distraction associated with listening to or talking on a handheld or hands-free device is associated with real world crashes and near miss events to a lesser extent than is commonly believed, and such distractions may even enhance safety in some instances.
Distracted driving is a growing problem in the United States. It is responsible for many deaths that could otherwise be prevented, especially in the younger generation of drivers. In 2008, there were 23,059 accidents involving 16-19 year olds, which lead to 194 deaths. Of these deaths, 10% were reported to be caused by distracted driving. Throughout the United States, over 3,000 deaths and 416,000 injuries annually can be attributed to distracted driving. To further illustrate the seriousness of this “epidemic”, driving while texting is about 6 times more likely to result in an accident than drinking while driving. Not only is distracted driving more likely to result in an accident, but the risk of injury requiring hospital visitation is 3 to 5 times greater the rate for other accidents.
One solution to distracted driving is through establishing driving laws to be enacted by state governments. Acknowledging that a large number of traffic accidents involve driving distraction, 39 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws related to distracted driving. Additionally, 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have banned text messaging for all drivers and currently, ten states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have gone as far as prohibiting all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. In 2010 alone, 12 of these distracted driving laws were enacted showing the growing attention towards distracted driving. However, not all states are on board with implementing such laws and each state varies in the particular restrictions placed upon drivers due to the fact that state governments have different cognitions about the definition and the consequences of distracted driving.
However, simply relying on mandatory laws is not enough or the best way to solve the problem of distracted driving. This is apparent because current laws in place regarding distracted driving are not being strictly enforced due in part to the following reasons. First, the punishment of the individuals violating the distracted driving laws is so mild that people draw little attention to them. Second, drivers are not categorically prohibited to use cell phones while driving. For example, using earphones to talk and texting with a hand-free devices is still legal. However, these behaviors can also easily take a driver’s attention away from the task of driving. Therefore, what state governments impose only restricts distracted driving rather than stringently banning any kind of cell phone use. Moreover, it can be argued that there is little evidence to show that the states’ enforcement efforts have effectively led to driver compliance. Hand-held mobile phone usage fell in New York in the five months following the hands-free law taking effect. However, it rose almost all the way back to the pre-law level at the 16-month mark. The transient decrease in hand-held cell phone use while driving was not sustained after the law was enacted due to the fact that a driver’s performance is largely and primarily based on the road safety awareness and education they have. Thus, anti-cell phone laws are not effective in a long term.
Another solution to preventing distracted driving among individuals is through education. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have sought to raise public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving through a series of initiatives and campaigns. The dangers of driving with distractions are highlighted in such campaigns as “One Text or Call Could Wreck It all”, “Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks” advertisement, and “Faces of Distracted Driving”. The “Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks” commercials advocate safe driving habits of not texting while driving through vivid scenarios, making the consequences of distracted more tangible. The “Faces of Distracted Driving” is an online video series, launched by DOT, that focuses on the individuals who have been personally affected by distracted driving in various ways. The objective of these initiatives is to deliver the message to the public that the consequences of distracted driving are not merely statistics, but may deeply impact the lives of the parties involved. Awareness campaigns targeted at reducing the occurrence of distracted driving can be very useful and effective. When drivers are more aware of the dangers to which they are being exposed to when they text and drive, it is hoped that they will refrain from putting themselves at risk and change their driving behaviors.
Insurance providers very aware of the effects of distracted driving try to offer end users tools (see Telematics2.0) or education to help address commercial impact from distracted driving related claims.
Next steps 
According to Peter H. Appel, administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) and the Obama administration's point person on transportation technologies, distracted driving is a growing problem that is tied to rapidly evolving technology. According to RITA, technologies that can be the source driver distraction include cell phones, PDAs, mp3 players, video players, guidance systems, driver/operator information systems, and devices that allow texting, emailing, and other communications. RITA is also looking to new technologies which can enhance transportation safety and reduce distracted driving via a program called the “Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge”.
Additionally, many employers have taken steps to reduce distracted driving outside of current legislation. The military restricts cell phone use in cars to hands free use of phones only. National freight companies ban all cell phone use while driving as well.
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has introduced his "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" - a plan for reducing distracted driving accidents and related deaths. This blueprint encourages the remaining 11 states without distracted driving laws to enact and enforce this critical legislation and challenges the auto industry to adopt new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the potential for distraction on devices built or brought. It is also hoped that states will partner with driver education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials to educate novice drivers of driver distraction and its consequences. Additionally, it hopes to provide all stakeholders with resources to take action so that they can step beyond the personal responsibility of the driver to help end distracted driving nationwide.
See also 
- "What is Distracted Driving". U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- "Three main types of distraction". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- "Texting while driving". U.S Department of Transportation. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- "Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations". U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- "Cell Phone & Texting Accident Statistics". Edgar Snyder & Associates. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, September 2010
- U.S. DOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Distacted Drive Report released September 2010
- Understanding the Distracted Brain, National Safety Council, March 2010
- Distracted Driving: What You Need to Know, US Department of Transportation, retrieved July 18, 2012
- Eby, David; Lidia Kostyniuk (May 2003). "Driver distraction and crashes: An assessment of crash databases and review of the literature" (PDF). The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/1533/2/97314.0001.001.pdf.
- Wireless Quick Facts, International Association for Wireless Telecommunications, December 2011
- Beck KH, Yan F, Wang MQ. Cell phone users, reported crash risk, unsafe driving behaviors and dispositions: a survey of motorists in Maryland. J Safety Res. 2007;38:683-8
- Cell Phones and Driving: Research Update, Automobile Association of America, December 2008
- Shutko, J. and Tijerina, L., (2011), Ford's Approach to Managing Driver Attention: SYNC and MyFord Touch, Ergonomics In Design, Vol. 19, No. 4, October 2011, pp. 13-16
- Get the Facts. Available at http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.html. Accessed June 28, 2012.
- McEvoy SP, Stevenson MR, McCartt AT, et al. Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study. BMJ. 2005;331(7514):428
- Ibrahim, J.K.; Anderson, E. D., Burris, S. C.,Wagenaar, A. C. (2011). "State Laws Restricting Driver Use of Mobile Communications Devices: Distracted-Driving Provisions, 1992–2010.". American Journal Of Preventive Medicine 40 (6): page.659–665.
- "State laws". U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- "Distracted Driving Laws". Public Health Law Research project.
- Kolko,, J.D. (2009). "The Effects of Mobile Phones and Hands-Free Laws on Traffic Fatalities.". B.E. Journal Of Economic Analysis & Policy: Contributions To Economic Analysis & Policy, 9 (1): page.1–26.
- "Public Awareness Campaigns". U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
- "DOT Launches Faces of Distracted Driving Site as Part of Ongoing Awareness Campaign". Professional Safety 56 (1): 12. 2011.
- In vehicle technology to address distracted driver, Johns Hopkins Education and Research Center for Occupational Safety, April 18, 2011.
- Guest Blogger RITA Administrator Peter Appel: Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge seeks your vision for transportation applications, DOT Fastlane, January 25, 2011.
- National Safety Council. Employer Cell Phone Policies. Available at www.nsc.org. Accessed June 15, 2012. Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS): Cell Phone Policies of Companies with Best Fleet Safety Performance. Available at www.trafficsaftey.org. June 15, 2012
- "U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Issues 'Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving,' Announces $2.4 Million for California, Delaware Pilot Projects" at nhtsa.gov
- "U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Issues ‘Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving’". U.S. Department of Transportation. 7 June 2012.
- distraction.gov – Official US Government website for distracted driving