Everyone knows that distracted drivers are a huge safety problem, both here in the Buffalo area and across the country. Every year, authorities blame thousands of car accidents in New York State on texting and driving and other forms of distracted driving. Many times, these wrecks injure innocent people and leave them with permanent, painful disabilities.
For years, the media have reported on the rise in distracted driving. Legislatures in virtually every state, including New York, have passed laws banning or at least restricting certain types of distracted driving. But the effect on driver behavior seems to be minimal so far.
How many accidents do distracted drivers really cause?
The problem may be even worse than authorities realize. A report by Insurance Journal suggests that just under 20 percent of car accidents in 2019 involved a driver distracted by their cellphone. If true, that would be a far greater percentage than reported by state and federal transportation agencies. The group behind this figure, Cambridge Mobile Telemetrics, believes that police often miss when distraction caused a crash and that states don’t always include distraction as a possible cause in their reports.
This is a troubling assertion. Serious injuries due to someone else’s preventable behavior are always frustrating. But imagine the possibility that auto accidents in the U.S. might be cut by a fifth if cellphones did not exist — or at least did not function while their owners were driving.
This much is beyond dispute
What we do know is that using a cellphone while driving reduces a driver’s judgment, reaction time and perception of the world around them. The dangers of doing this on the road are obvious. Too many people in Buffalo have been killed and severely hurt by distracted drivers.