Distracted Drivers

Behind the wheel, drivers must constantly decide where to focus their attention. While the safest choice is to remain focused on their driving, a host of other objects and actions compete both inside and outside their vehicles to tempt drivers' attention away from the road ahead. Research suggests that driver inattention or distraction is estimated to be responsible for up to 30 percent of police-reported crashes. Therefore, HSRC focuses on researching the role distractions play in driver performance.

In May 2001, HSRC released its first study into driver distraction. Funded through the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the report shed significant light into the role of driver distraction in auto crashes, as well as the types of distractions most commonly experienced by drivers, finding that distractions were not always what the public might perceive.

NOTE: Please be advised that this study used NHTSA Crashworthiness Data System (CDS) data from 1995 through 1999. The use of cell phones and other electronic media by drivers has increased greatly in the last 15 years. According to CTIA-The Wireless Association, there were 276.6 million wireless subscribers in the US in June 2009, compared to 97 million in June 2000.

In August 2003, Phase Two of the "Role of Driver Distraction" was completed. During Phase One, crash data was analyzed to determine the most frequent causes of crashes involving driver distraction, yet researchers felt that this only glimpsed into the actual nature and causes of distractions drivers process while behind the wheel. In Phase Two's groundbreaking study, "Distractions in Everyday Driving," HSRC researchers placed cameras in the vehicles of study participants to record the nature of real-world and real-time driver distractions.