The Center for Disease Control reports that there are three types of distraction

  1. Visual distraction: when you take your eyes off the road
  2. Manual distraction: when you are not holding the wheel
  3. Cognitive distraction: when you are not mentally focused on driving

In Utah the top distractions are cell phones, passengers, and items within the cars. These distractions lead to half of all the rear end collisions in the state. Using a cell phone while driving is claimed to be as dangerous as driving under the influence. Contrary to popular beliefs which have led to the popularity of hands free devices, when talking on the phone hands free is no less distracting than hand held. The act of texting has been seen to be the most distracting activity done in a car and has proven to be six times more distracting than simply talking on the phone. This is because texting involves all three types of distractions.

In terms of driver distraction the most frequent offender is the cell phone. How does the cell phone use of the United States compare to other countries? In this country 69% of all drivers admit to using their cell phones while driving. Come pare this to the United Kingdom, which has some no texting laws, that has only 21% of drivers using their phones and driving. Here 31% of drivers ages 18-64 have reported that they have read or sent text messages while driving; whereas only15% of drivers in Spain have done so.

What are we doing to correct our problem?

  • States are beginning to pass laws which ban texting and even all phone use in the car. Utah for example is testing a phone ban on the teen population starting this week.
  • Licensing systems are including larger units on caution and safety, making sure that kids know the deadly consequences of being distracted. As of this point more research must be done before it is conclusive as to the effect the ban has on crash statistics.
  • On September 30, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving on government business or with government equipment.
  • On October 27, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted a ban that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.

How does Utah compare to the nation?

Driving distracted leads to 18% of all crashes which result in injuries nation wide. That means that for every five crashes where someone was hurt one of the crashes was caused by someone driving distracted. According to the state  Daggett (13.6%), Washington (12.8%), and Sanpete (12.3%) counties had the highest percentages of crashes involving a distracted driver. In Utah as of 2010 the state department reported that 9.3% of all Utah crashes were due to distracted drivers. This is lower than the national average and yet still higher than necessary.

Does your sex matter? Yes.

Though overall numbers of distracted crashes is lower than the national average, but the ratio of male and female crashes is consistent in within the state and the nation. In Utah men were responsible for causing more crashes than women. In 55.1% of all Utah crashes men were at fault. Similarly, men were to blame for 65% of the fatal crashes in Utah. Despite these numbers women in Utah are to blame for the majority of accidents involving distracted driving.

Does age matter? Yes.

Within all the Utah instances of distracted drivers 21.6% have been teenagers. The risk of distraction appears to be inversely related to the age of the driver. Teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in distracted driving. younger drivers are believed to be less experienced at multitasking while driving and are therefore more easily distracted. Under this assumption even aged drivers are multitasking. How much safer would our roads be if even the experienced drivers are required to put distractions like phones away.

Does the day of the week matter? Yes.

In Utah, Sundays have been seen to have the least amount of distracted accidents. Tuesday and Thursday had the highest amount of crashes due to distracted drivers.

Does the time of year matter? Yes.

Contrary to other accidents which have higher rates during harsh weather conditions, accidents from distraction are most common during the month of September. September had the most fatalities during distracted driving cases. There also was an increase in distracted driving during the months of August and December. Perhaps this is because these months have the most movement of college students and travelers.

Does the time of day matter? Yes.

The hours of five and six account for 12% of all distracted driving accidents. This is due to the rush hour traffic. Not only do the roads face an increase in the number of drivers possible to get in accidents, but people are shown to be more cognitively distracted after a long day of work.


the State of Utah outlaws all texting for drivers of any age. As of May fourteenth the house bill 103 prohibits teens from any use of the phone.  These laws and those to come are aimed at lowering the number of distracted drivers on our roads.

Christensen & Hyman feel that the enforcement and  public awareness of these laws is crucial to the protecting of our communities. We encourage the actions of the state. If you have had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of dangerous result of driver distraction call the accident specialists at (801)506-0800.

Photo courtesy of Airman Sadie Colbert