Recently in the wake of the death of DPS officer Tim Huffman due to what appears to be blatant distracted driving… and this being distracted driving awareness month; Arizona DPS is running a crackdown and general media campaign, and has released some Arizona numbers on distracted driving. Here is the DPS press release; a news story is pasted below.
summary: distraction of any kind is associated with about 1 in 10 crashes (1,160 out of ~ 10,000 crashes reviewed); and cell use was the cause of distraction in about one-quarter of those crashes (127 of the 1,160). SO DON’T JUST DWELL ON CELL PHONES.
First off, let me state for the record — i don’t think people should be using any sort of cell (text, talk, handsfree, handheld) while driving. And the NTSB agrees with me. That being said…
The LAB (among others) seem to me to tend to harp on (especially) handheld cell bans as going to provide some huge safety benefit for bicyclists. empirical studies of cell-ban laws don’t seem to show any great benefit. There are many possible explanations for why this might be true; foremost among them probably is that handheld cell use in-and-of-itself is a relatively small part of the overall traffic safety problem.
Over a five-month period, 10 people died and 380 were injured as a result of distracted driving, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
DPS held a five-day campaign this month to target distracted driving through enforcement and education, and in a newly released report, it released statistics about crashes and citations during that period alongside data gathered from Nov. 27 to April 1.
Nearly 200,000 traffic stops were reviewed during the five-month period, DPS said, and out of more than 10,000 total crashes, 1,160 were related to distracted driving.
Of those wrecks attributed to distracted driving, DPS found that:
■ 255 wrecks were caused by outside distractions outside the vehicle, a broad category that includes other drivers and sign spinners.
■ 130 collisions were caused when drivers were reaching for an object in their vehicle.
■ 127 wrecks were attributed to cell-phone use, which includes making and receiving phone calls and text messages.
The collection period also looked at more than 8,000 stops that DPS officers made on vehicles in which the drivers appeared distracted because they exhibited behaviors that included swerving and driving slowly. Officers later determined that cell-phone use caused the distractions in the bulk of those stops — about 2,500 — while 1,900 were attributed to other people inside the vehicles and nearly 1,800 were caused by outside distractions.
“We’re looking at distracted driving not just with cell-phone use,” said Officer Carrick Cook, a DPS spokesman. “The numbers show that outside distractions are so significant. That should act as a reminder that distracted driving is not just cell-phone use, it’s everything.”
Officers took the lessons from the collection period and applied them to a concentrated effort this month to educate drivers about those dangers, Cook said.
During the five-day period (April 10-15), nearly 600 enforcement actions were related to distracted driving. The majority of the incidents involved cell phones, followed by other occupants and outside distractions respectively, according to the report.
Investigators also studied 15 crashes that were related to distracted driving, including seven wrecks that resulted from external distractions, five that came through cell-phone use and three that were attributed to other passengers distracting the driver, according to the report.
During this month’s campaign, the majority of people stopped were issued warnings instead of citations, according to the report.
NHTSA puts out an annual Traffic Safety Facts on distracted driving :
Table 3 Percentage Killed in Distraction-Affected Crashes, by Person Type, 2012 . . . Pedestrian 13% . . . Pedalcyclist 2%. The federal figures seem to be broadly consistent with the numbers DPS came up with.
I am generally impressed by the hard-line DPS has taken about reasonable-and-prudent speed (i.e. despite a specific law banning distraction, it is still a violation) but I wish they would themselves not harp on cell phones; any distraction that takes drivers’ eyes off the road is a problem, not just cell phones.
…The law says, “A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances, conditions and actual and potential hazards then existing.” A reasonable speed while not looking at the road while texting is zero, (DPS spokesperson )Cook said.
One of DPS’ own was killed last year by a distracted driver.
“In Arizona, DPS has lost 16 of its 29 officers who were killed in the line of duty in traffic related incidents with the most recent being Officer Tim Huffman,” said Lt. Colonel James McGuffin of the DPS Highway Patrol Division.