Activities that take drivers’ attention off the road, including talking or texting on cellphones, eating, conversing with passengers and other distractions, are a major safety threat. Beginning with 2010 data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revised the way it gauged distracted driving, introducing a narrower measure called “distraction-affected crashes,” which focuses on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement such as dialing a cellphone or texting and being distracted by another person or outside event. The number of people injured in distracted-affected crashes fell to 387,000 in 2011 from 416,000 in 2010. There were 3,020 distracted-affected fatal crashes in 2011, resulting in 3,331 deaths. In 2010, 3,092 people were killed in 2,843 distraction-affected fatal crashes.
Texting bans may not reduce crash rates, according to a Highway Loss Data Institute study of collision claims patterns in California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington before and after texting bans went into effect. Collisions went up slightly in all the states, except Washington, where the change was statistically insignificant.