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How common is distracted driving? This agency filmed traffic to find out

If drunk driving was the problem of the last few decades, distracted driving has doubtless taken its place. With the advent of smartphones, multitasking while behind the wheel has become all too common, and indeed, all too dangerous.

In 2013, more than 3,100 people were killed as the result of distracted drivers, and another 424,000 were injured. And while everyone promises that they’re not part of the problem — that they would never text and drive — that may not be all that true. So to take a closer look at just what driving in the 21st century looks like, SR22 filmed 20 minutes of rush-hour traffic on South Florida’s I-95. Of the 2,151 cars they filmed, 185 were driven by individuals who were either on the phone, eating, “or doing something else that diverted their attention from the road.” That’s 8 percent, and a potentially alarming statistic. 

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By the NHTSA‘s definition, distracted driving comes in a variety of different forms — there’s visual distraction, which involves taking your eyes off the road, but then there’s also cognitive distraction (taking your mind off the road) and manual distraction (not having your hands on the wheel). According to the agency, those who are distracted have slower response and reaction times, leading to dangerous side effects.

When SR22 recorded Florida traffic, they found that the vast majority of distracted driving was a derivative of talking on the phone. Texting came a distant second, then eating — “other” distractions were lumped into a single category, and included things like reaching towards the backseat, putting on makeup, and other risky behavior. 

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Of the 185 distracted drivers SR22 observed in just 20 minutes, 150 were chatting on the phone. Sadly, this isn’t just a Florida epidemic.  According to a CDC study, almost 70 percent of American drivers between the ages of 18 and 64 admitted to talking on their cell phone while driving in the last month. Worse still, over 30 percent said they’d read or sent texts or emails from behind the wheel. And while texting is considered the most dangerous mobile phone-related activity to do while operating a vehicle, any sort of distraction can prove fatal. 

Click here to check out out the full results of SR22’s study, and do everyone a favor: Put that phone away the next time you’re driving.