Preventing a collision requires a driver to notice a potential road hazard, respond appropriately and react quickly enough to stop the vehicle safely. Even at the modest speed of 55 miles per hour, it takes only five seconds to travel the length of a full football field, and even a momentary distraction may result in a deadly accident.
Handheld cellphone use is one of the most common forms of driver distraction, and in Pennsylvania it is illegal to text while operating a moving vehicle. However, any activity that compromises a driver’s attention increases the risk of a collision, including eating, conversing with passengers, tending to children or handling an unsecured pet.
Distracted driving statistics
Despite the risks, many drivers are confident about their ability to multitask safely behind the wheel. However, the statistics reflect the grim reality that distracted driving endangers everyone sharing the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted driving was a factor in over 2,800 U.S. deaths in 2018 alone, including 400 pedestrians, 77 bicyclists, 605 passengers and 1,730 drivers.
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Transportation’s 2019 statistics show that distracted drivers caused 13,729 collisions and 56 fatalities.
Texting while driving is especially risky
Reading or writing a text while driving is especially dangerous because it distracts the driver in three ways: manually, visually and cognitively. In addition to needing to take at least one hand off the wheel, a texting driver takes his or her eyes off the road and shifts attention away from surrounding traffic and potential hazards.