Objectives: We examined trends in distracted driving fatalities and their relation to cell phone use and texting volume.
Methods: The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) records data on all road fatalities that occurred on public roads in the United States from 1999 to 2008. We studied trends in distracted driving fatalities, driver and crash characteristics, and trends in cell phone use and texting volume. We used multivariate regression analysis to estimate the relation between state-level distracted driving fatalities and texting volumes.
Results: After declining from 1999 to 2005, fatalities from distracted driving increased 28% after 2005, rising from 4572 fatalities to 5870 in 2008. Crashes increasingly involved male drivers driving alone in collisions with roadside obstructions in urban areas. By use of multivariate analyses, we predicted that increasing texting volumes resulted in more than 16,000 additional road fatalities from 2001 to 2007.
Conclusions: Distracted driving is a growing public safety hazard. Specifically, the dramatic rise in texting volume since 2005 appeared to be contributing to an alarming rise in distracted driving fatalities. Legislation enacting texting bans should be paired with effective enforcement to deter drivers from using cell phones while driving.