Can We Please Have A Grownup Discussion About Distracted Driving?

by Marc Scribner on September 19, 2012 · 1 comment

in Features, Mobility, Nanny State, Personal Liberty, Regulation

Post image for Can We Please Have A Grownup Discussion About Distracted Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a new study on distracted driving [PDF]. According to the agency, 9 percent of total fatal crashes in 2010 (2,843 of 30,196) were “distraction-affected” (D-A). This does not mean that the distracted driver was at fault; rather, it means that a driver involved in a crash reported to the police that they were distracted in some way. Of the D-A fatal crashes, 12 percent involved a cell phone distraction. Of total fatal crashes, cell phone distraction affected barely 1 percent.

If you were to listen to the Obama administration’s increasingly bizarre propaganda, you would probably come away thinking that cell phones are the biggest auto-related killer. In reality, they are but one potential distraction under the “D-A” banner, which itself is a subset of inattentive driving. In fact, according to NHTSA, drivers “lost in thought” are involved in 20 percent of D-A crashes and 1.9 percent of total fatal crashes. But this has not led Obama’s secretary of transportation to condemn the “national epidemic” of daydreaming-while-driving and recommend useless (and likely counterproductive) laws to combat it.

To be sure, using a cell phone while driving increases crash risk, but so what? NHTSA found that “adjusting audio and/or climate controls” was a distraction factor in about 2 percent of fatal D-A crashes. Should we expect a proportional public service announcement campaign? I would hope not.

Doing anything unrelated to the core task of driving while driving increases risk. Driver education should stress this point, but singling out a small risk factor and referring to a nationwide ban on texting-while-driving as “a good next step,” as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood did today at an event sponsored by AT&T, is both stupid and intellectually dishonest. Drivers should be treated like adults and given a sober perspective on the risks of distracted driving, not infantilized by clueless bureaucrats who employ scare tactics and push for more nanny state laws and regulations.

Dan September 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm

While distracted driving crashes soar (so they tell us), all crashes have dropped. According to NHTSA’s Traffic Safety Facts 2010 Annual Report (Google will return link to PDF) shows that fatal, injury, and non-injury crashes have fallen by more than 10% in the past 10 years (see Table 1) as highway miles traveled increased by nearly 10% (see Table 2). All this as cell phones became ubiquitous.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: