We have observed a disturbing trend – a rise in the number of crashes caused by drivers who were using a cellphone at the time of impact.
If people had a better understanding of just how dangerous it is to use a cellphone while driving, we truly believe they would put their phones down when they start up their cars. To learn more, we urge you to go to Distraction.gov – arguably the comprehensive distracted driving resource on the Web.
To do our own part in raising awareness of this risk, we turned to the numbers – specifically, Tennessee crash statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database.
As we found, a significant percentage of traffic deaths could be eliminated in our state if drivers stopped using cellphones when they are behind the wheel. The numbers don’t lie: 12 percent of the fatal car accidents that occurred in Tennessee during a recent four-year stretch (2010 to 2013) involved drivers who were distracted by cellphones, while 7 percent of the total number of traffic deaths could be traced to this same form of distraction.
Let’s take a closer look at these statistics and what we can learn from them:
Cellphone Related Collisions by Month
As the FARS statistics indicate, using a cellphone while driving presents a risk throughout the year. Seasons change; the danger never goes away. For instance, during a warm-weather month such as May, 28 cellphone-related traffic deaths occurred. In a cold-weather month, November, 27 such crashes were recorded.
With that said, the upcoming start of the new year in January is a good time for each of us to make a promise that we won’t text, talk, e-mail, surf the Web or do any other activities with our cellphone when we get behind the wheel. Please check out our Pledge, which can be found at the bottom of this section.
Cellphone Related Collisions by Time of Day
There is no safe time of day to use a cellphone while driving. As the FARS database indicates, accidents caused by cellphone-related distraction occur around the clock in Tennessee.
However, as this chart also shows, there is clearly one period during the day when cellphone-related fatalities tend to spike: Rush hour. During the time span between 3 and 6 p.m. – when many people hit the road to pick up children at daycare or head home after school or work – 83 cellphone-related traffic deaths occurred in Tennessee during the years we analyzed.
The reality is that we are distracted by many things during this time of day: We may be thinking about our work or school, or we may be hearing our children in the back seat as we try to navigate through congested traffic. When using a cellphone is added into that mix of distractions, it can clearly prove to be fatal.
Traffic Safety Starts With Us
Tennessee, like the majority of states, bans texting while driving among drivers of all ages. The state also prohibits cellphone use by drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses and by school bus drivers who are carrying passengers. These laws play an important role in preventing distracted driving accidents. They must be obeyed. However, we can do better than that as individual drivers.
Even though older and more experienced drivers can legally use a cellphone while driving, they should still put down their phones – simply for the sake of safety. As these numbers reveal, all of us face a risk of getting into a deadly accident when we text or talk while driving. We can all play a role in preventing these crashes.