New research released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that many Americans continue to use electronic devices while driving, despite legislative efforts and public service campaigns aimed at curbing distracted driving. Forty-nine percent of drivers say they answer incoming phone calls while driving, and 24% are willing to place calls on all, most or some trips.
The 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) shows that at any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving -- a number that has held steady since 2010. According to separate NHTSA data, more than 3,300 people were killed in 2011 and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
The new data are being released at the start of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
The new data include statistics from the 2012 Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors Survey and the 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey on Driver Electronics Use, as well as the 2011 Distraction Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data.
"Distracted driving is a serious and deadly epidemic on America's roadways," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "There is no way to text and drive safely. Powering down your cell phone when you're behind the wheel can save lives – maybe even your own."
According to NHTSA's 2012 National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors, most drivers support bans on handheld cell phone use (74%) and texting while driving (94%). On average, these drivers thought the fines for these offenses should be at least $200.
So far 39 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. Also 10 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
"Many drivers see distracted driving as risky when other drivers do it, but do not recognize how their own driving deteriorates," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "I urge all motorists to use common sense and keep their attention focused solely on the task of safely driving."
More than 6,000 respondents age 16 and older were interviewed by phone for the National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors.
Almost half of drivers said they answer an incoming call and one in four drivers are willing to place a call on all, most, or some trips. Slightly fewer are willing to make a call while driving compared to 2010 (28% to 24%), but there is little if any change in those who answer a call while driving (52% to 49%). Considering that in 2011 there were almost 212 million licensed drivers in the America, about 102 million drivers were answering calls and 50 million drivers were placing calls while driving.