NHTSA Sounds Alarm on Distracted Driving: 'Pay the Price or Risk Lives'

Woman using phone while driving the car. Risky driving behaviors concept.

Recent data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals that 40,990 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in 2023. Despite an increase in driving—with total miles reaching 67.5 billion in 2023—traffic-related deaths fell by 3.6%. However, distracted driving remains a serious concern.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

In light of these statistics, the NHTSA unveiled a campaign to combat distracted driving. This campaign highlights the fatal risks and legal penalties associated with distracted driving.

The campaign's launch event featured NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman, Chief Robert McCullough of the Baltimore County, Maryland, Police Department, Alan Morales from Students Against Destructive Decisions, and Joel Feldman of EndDD.org, who introduced the campaign's new materials.

Prevalence of distracted driving collisions

The widespread use of cell phones while driving is a notable risk. This includes activities such as calling, texting, and using apps on both hand-held and hands-free devices. In 2022, distracted driving was a factor in over 3,300 fatalities and close to 290,000 injuries. About 20% of those who died in crashes involving distracted drivers were not inside vehicles at the time of these incidents.

Shulman pointed out that these figures probably fall short of the actual numbers. Many drivers might deny using their phones before a crash, and it can be challenging for police to verify if phone use was a factor.

"We want everyone to know: put the phone away or pay," she said in a recent statement. "Pay can mean a ticket or points on your license and it can also mean pay the ultimate price - deadly crash that takes your life or the life of someone else on the road."

The impact of stringent laws on distracted driving

Nearly every state has made texting while driving illegal. Over half have outlawed hand-held cell phone use, including Texas and Oklahoma. In a study from 2021, researchers from Ohio, North Carolina, and Canada revealed that broader bans on hand-held cellphone use correspond with a decrease in driver fatalities.

That's unlike restrictions that solely target texting or calling while driving. The more stringent bans might disallow any holding or use of a cell phone and prohibit activities such as social media engagement, internet surfing, and gaming.

Efforts to curb cell phone use while driving

Chief McCullough outlined his team's strategy to combat distracted driving, emphasizing "targeted enforcement, education, and training." He explained that on multiple occasions throughout the year, his department collaborates with the Maryland Department of Transportation and various law enforcement bodies to reroute traffic along a designated road. This tactic allows an officer in a nondescript vehicle to identify drivers who are using their phones while driving.

McCullough likens as little as 5 seconds of visual distracted driving at 55 miles per hour to "driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed."

Morales, a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, sheds light on the susceptibility of young drivers to distraction on the road. He referred to 2021 data from the NHTSA and pointed out that the youngest driver demographic accounted for 16% of all drivers distracted by a cell phone in fatal car accidents.

Morales's organization collaborated with the NHTSA to heighten awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. This included advertising campaigns in English and Spanish to dissuade drivers from using cell phones.

Feldman, who lost his daughter to a crash caused by a distracted driver in 2009, called on parents to set a positive example for young drivers. He's the founder of EndDD.org and believes that reminding drivers of the thousands of lives lost annually to such accidents might make them think twice before diverting their attention from the road.

Seeking legal help if you're hit by a distracted driver

All drivers have a duty to uphold on the road. That duty includes disengaging from their cell phones and focusing on the task of driving. If you were hit and injured by a distracted driver, the car accident attorneys at Hoover Rogers Law, LLP can fight to hold them accountable and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

We dedicate ourselves to helping crash victims recover from the aftermath of serious car accidents in Texas and Oklahoma. Our team is committed to taking on insurance companies to secure the maximum compensation you deserve while you focus on healing. Our law firm also operates on a contingency basis, meaning there's no upfront cost to you for our services, and you pay nothing unless we win your case.

Contact us online or call our law offices in Texas or Oklahoma to schedule your free initial consultation. We're located in Wichita Falls, TX, and Lawton, OK.

Consultation* Click Here