Cell phone-related crashes now account for about 27% of all vehicle accidents, according to an estimate released earlier this week by the National Safety Council.
This is the third consecutive year that the figure has risen, despite hands-free legislation of some kind being enacted in a growing number of states. The number of crashes involving drivers talking on cell phones remained at around 21%, the council estimated, but the number of crashes involving drivers texting jumped by between 5% and 6%.
“The incredible connectivity enabled by technology has resulted in a very dangerous environment behind the wheel,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC, said in a news release. “While the public understands the risks associated with distracted driving, the data shows the behavior continues — we need better education, laws and enforcement to make our roads safer for everyone.”
The council creates the annual estimate because federal fatality data alone doesn’t represent the widespread nature of such crashes. The NSC estimate uses a model that factors in observational data and crash risk research to the federal fatality information to produce a more realistic figure — though it’s possible, according to the council, that the estimate is on the low side.
Cell phones still aren’t the top cause for vehicle accidents; a majority of crashes, and about 40% of auto fatalities, are caused by speeding. But talking on a cell phone increases the risk of an accident by about four times, and texting increases a driver’s risk of crashing by at least eight times. One study has indicated that texting while driving makes an accident a shocking 23 times as likely.
The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization that was chartered by Congress to prevent injuries at home, in workplaces and on the road through a combination of research, education and advocacy. It has been active since 1913.