Distracted Drivers Basic Data

Campaign to Prevent Distracted Among Latino Youth: Keeping Our Young Latino Drivers Safe

Distracted Driving Among Youth

Drivers can be distracted by many behaviors (see below). However, the explosion in the use of electronic devices (cell phones, tablets), especially among Latino youth, and the growing trend of using these devices for calling or texting while driving is of great and growing concern.

According to the National Organization for Youth Safety (NOYS) 58% of teens involved in crashes are distracted.

What is Distracted Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as: “…any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle. Such activities have the potential to distract the person from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.” Though it is common to associate distracted driving with cell phone use and texting while driving, which we will focus on, distracted driving can be caused by several behaviors. NHTSA identifies three types of distracted driving:

Visual — taking your eyes off the road;

Manual — taking your hands of the wheel; and

Cognitive — taking your mind off what you’re doing”. These behaviors include: “talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.”


Distracted driving can be caused by drivers interacting with passengers, changing radio stations, eating and drinking, using a navigation device, reaching for an object, listening to a handheld device, looking at the scenery, and even an insect entering the vehicle. However, one of the main and most dangerous causes is using a cell phone (dialing/speaking) and texting while driving.

The Danger of Distracted Driving: Cellphone Use and Texting

It has been difficult for researchers, traffic safety experts and state and local officials to obtain reliable information on distracted driving or distracted driving as the cause of crashes. Usually, distracted driving at a crash scene is reported by law enforcement at the scene only when the driver admits to distracted driving or at the discretion of the officer, leading to a potential undercount of distracted driving incidents.  Mostly, the research on distracted deriving has relied on self-reporting of distracted driving behavior through surveys of various segments of the driving population. It is even more difficult to obtain data on Latino teen distracted driving, since most studies present only aggregated data by gender and age.

However, all the research clearly points to the danger of distracted driving.

“Among all drivers, inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes.” This is especially the case of distraction using a cellphone or texting while driving. “Text messaging is associated with the highest risk among all cell-phone-related tasks observed among drivers.” In many cases, texting can distract a driver for 5 seconds or more, which at a normal speed is like driving the length a football field blinded. “One study showed that using a cell phone while driving, whether hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as does having a blood alcohol level at the legal limit of .08 percent.” (U.S. Department of Transportation. (2008). Statistics and facts about distracted driving: http://www.distraction.gov/stats-and-facts/#did in Child Trends: Archived Indicator: Distracted Driving)

“According to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 10 percent of all fatal crashes are the result of distracted driving – at a cost of $129 billion annually. And, these incidents increase dramatically around Halloween.

That’s why, now more than ever, it’s important to focus on these five scary statistics about distracted driving:

  1. The most distracted drivers are 36% more likely to be involved in a near collision.
    Near collisions are a strong indicator of risk and distracted driving is a key contributor to this risk.  

  1. The most distracted drivers are 87% more likely to drive 10 mph or more over the speed limit.
    The most distracted drivers are also aggressive speeders.

  1. The most distracted drivers are 83% more likely to roll through a stop sign or red light, and are 2.1 times more likely to run a stop sign or red light.
    The most distracted drivers do not stop at stop lights or stop signs at a rate significantly higher than other drivers.

  1. The most distracted drivers drift out of lane 91% more than all other drivers.
    Distracted driving measurably affects a driver’s ability to stay in his/her lane. 

  1. The most distracted drivers are 4.1 times more likely not to wear a seatbelt.
    The most distracted drivers are highly unlikely to wear a seatbelt.”  

(From Smartdrive - http://www.smartdrive.net/scary-statistics-behind-distracted-driving/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIx6Ha6cSK2gIVmIvICh27wwPdEAMYASAAEgKOJfD_BwE

Youth are more likely to drive distracted than any other group.

Youth Distracted Driving

“The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers are those under 20. According to official reports, in 2013, driver distraction was involved in 10 percent of all fatal crashes for this group, a higher percentage than that for all other age groups. However, a recent study of in-car video footage found that potentially distracting behavior was a factor in 58 percent of major crashes for this age group; teenagers were using a cell phone in twelve percent of such collisions… (Child Trends: Archived Indicator: Distracted Driving)

In 2012, NHTSA conducted a national survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors, which included 5,957 individuals. The results indicated that distracted driving behaviors were more common among youth. An estimated 58.3% of young people ages from 16 to 20 had distracted driving behaviors; this means that more than the half of teens were more prone to be distracted while they were driving. On the other hand, the people above 65 years old were the group with less distraction-prone behaviors, representing 5.4%. The survey results also demonstrated that there was no difference between genders about distracted driving (since the percentage was almost the same in both sexes).

For teen drivers, the most common distraction is using a cell phone.

“Unlike distractions such as eating, selecting pre-set radio stations, etc., electronic devices are more interactive and require greater time commitment and continual attention, response and manipulation to obtain a desired result. Safety research, studies and data, which will be discussed in this paper, reveal that the use of electronic devices for telecommunications (i.e., cell phone and text messaging), telematics and entertainment can readily distract drivers from the driving task. Crash risk increases dramatically – as much as four times higher – when a driver is using a cell phone, with no significant safety difference between hand-held and hands-free phones observed in many studies [McEvoy, Stevenson, McCartt, 2005 and Redelmeier, Tibshirani, 1997]. (J.D. Catherine Chase. U.S. State and Federal Laws Targeting Distracted Driving. Association for the Advancement of Automobile Medicine, NIH 2014.


“Research has found that dialing a phone number while driving increases your teen's risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times. Talking or texting on the phone takes your teen's focus off the task of driving, and significantly reduces their ability to react to a roadway hazard, incident, or inclement weather.” (NHTSA https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/teen-driving)

Texting, however, is not widespread among drivers as talking the cell phone while driving. Almost 80% of respondents in the NHTSA study stated that they never send text messages or e-mails while driving, while 10% reported that they send text messages at least sometimes and 11% indicated that they rarely do. Of drivers who send electronic messages, 44% stated that they wait until they reach a stop light to send the text message and 35% reported that they continue to drive. One-third of drivers who send messages while driving believed that there was no difference in their driving compared to times when they are not texting.

CDC’s national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors health-risk behaviors among high school students, including sending texts while driving.  

Recent YRBSS findings include: In 2015, 42% of high school students who drove in the past 30 days reported sending a text or email while driving. Students who reported frequent texting while driving were: Less likely to wear a seatbelt; more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking; more likely to drink and drive.


Distracted Driving and Latino Youth  

There is very little recent research about distracted driving among the various ethnic groups, including Latinos. Disaggregated data can be obtained by age and gender, but not be ethnic group. The assumption of this campaign is that Latino teens engage in much the same behaviors as youth of all other groups. An AT&T report in 2016 indicates, however, that “half of Latinos admit to using their smartphones to social network while driving. More than a quarter (28%) snap selfies or take photos. And nearly 7-in-10 (68%) text behind the wheel.

U.S. Hispanics are more prone to smartphone distracted driving than the general population, according to AT&TIt Can Wait research. 83% of Hispanics admit to using their smartphones behind the wheel. That compares with 71% of Americans as a whole.  


“Among high-schoolers in 2013, whites were the most likely to report texting or emailing while driving in the past 30 days, at 46 percent, while blacks were the least likely to do so (29 percent). Asian students (40 percent) were not significantly different from whites or Hispanics (36 percent) on this measure, although Hispanic students were less likely than whites to report these distractions.” (Child Trends: Archived Indicator: Distracted Driving)

This campaign is made possible through a generous contribution by:  

GM Foundation




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