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Driver Distraction Cited as a Factor in Relatively Few Highway Crashes

CONTACT: Robert Sanchez
Public Information Administrator

February 28, 2003

A study presented to the Legislature today reports that “driver distraction” was cited as a factor in only six-tenths of one percent of Florida’s 256,169 traffic crashes in 2001.

The study was based on an in-depth analysis of traffic crash reports, including the narrative portion where law enforcement officers explain a crash in greater detail.

Among the 1,520 crashes in which driver distraction was cited as a factor, 335 were attributed to “talking or listening on cellular phone.” That’s 22 percent of such crashes.

Other distractions included “outside person, object, or event” (145), “other vehicle occupants” (114), “adjusting radio, cassette, CD” (95), “using a device brought into vehicle” (78), “moving object in vehicle” (50), “smoking related” (35), “using a device or controls integral to vehicle” (29), and “eating or drinking” (28).

However, the probable need for continued analysis was evident in the relatively large number of crashes in which driver distraction was listed as a factor but was categorized on the crash report only in general terms such as as “unknown” (319), “other” (273), and “inattention” (17).

In addition, analysts note that all kinds of driver distraction may be understated because the statistics are drawn from crash reports that rely in part on drivers’ “self-reporting.”

The crash report analysis was performed by the Office of Management Research and Development at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

In all, the report notes, crashes in which driver distraction was cited as a factor during 2001 caused 10 fatalities and 630 injuries, including 172 incapacitating injuries.

“Even though driver distraction was cited in a relatively small portion of all crashes, the toll of fatalities and serious injuries is a reminder that driving is a full-time job,” said Fred O. Dickinson, DHSMV’s Executive Director.

“When you’re driving a vehicle, whether on a crowded highway or a deserted country road, an instant of inattention can cause sudden death or a lifetime of pain and regret.”

2003 Press Releases       DHSMV Press Releases

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