This Week’s Report: “Distracted Driving”

More than 5,000 people die each year in vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving, many the result of texting and talking on cellphones behind the wheel. And, as writer David Hosansky explains in this week’s Researcher, “teen drivers appear to be especially susceptible to distraction.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were believed to be distracted – “the highest proportion of any age group,” Hosansky writes.

Texting while driving is particularly perilous. A 2009 study focusing on drivers of larger vehicles and trucks concluded that texting raised the risk of a crash by 23 times compared with non-distracted driving, Hosansky reports. “Shockingly, texting drivers took their eyes off the road for each text an average of 4.6 seconds – which at 55 mph, means they were driving the length of a football field without looking.”

This compelling report has many uses: for classes and papers on public health, governance and public policy, psychology, technology, traffic safety and more -- and as a sobering reminder of the perils of distracted driving.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor