Surveys: Texting and other driver distractions remain alarmingly common

Recent surveys show that a large proportion of drivers still admit to behaviors such as texting, using social media and grooming while behind the wheel.

In recent years, distracted driving has grown into a serious threat to people in Portland and other parts of the U.S. In 2013 alone, distracted drivers across the country contributed to accidents that injured about 421,000 people and claimed 3,154 lives, according to Distraction.gov. Alarmingly, there may have been even more serious or deadly car accidents that involved inattention but weren't formally reported as distracted driving crashes.

Here in Oregon, lawmakers have attempted to mitigate this threat by banning all drivers from using handheld cell phones. However, recent surveys suggest that many drivers may still endanger others by breaking this law or engaging in different distractions.

Prevalent electronic distractions

According to Time magazine, AT&T recently released the results of a survey of over 2,000 adults. All of the respondents were between ages 18 and 65, and they all reported using smart phones and driving on a daily basis. Texting was by far the most common distraction that these drivers reported, with 61 percent admitting to doing it. Over one in four drivers also admitted to doing at least one of the following things while behind the wheel:

  • Reading and sending emails
  • Browsing the Internet
  • Using Facebook

Disturbingly, more than one in ten drivers admitted to engaging in distractions that were potentially even more dangerous. For example, 12 percent of drivers recorded videos while behind the wheel, and 10 percent conducted video chats. These distractions, which require both visual and mental attention, may greatly raise the risk of oversights, mistakes and accidents.

Other risky activities

Another survey that was conducted partly in Oregon suggests that non-electronic distractions are also a common issue. According to National Public Radio, researchers from Oregon State University spoke with teenagers about their distracted driving habits. Troublingly, 40 percent of the teens reported texting, despite the legal ban. The teenagers also admitted to engaging in various habits that are dangerous but not explicitly illegal.

More than one-quarter of the respondents stated that they sometimes changed clothing or shoes while they were driving. Other teenagers admitted to applying makeup or changing out their contact lenses while behind the wheel. Finishing homework while driving was another common and potentially dangerous distraction that the teenagers admitted to.

Dangerous driver attitudes

Since these findings are based on the results of surveys, they may not scientifically reflect the habits of all drivers. The survey respondents may not accurately represent the general driving population, and they may have given inaccurate information. Still, the survey results point to alarming behaviors and attitudes that may be fairly common among motorists in Oregon.

Many distracted drivers may underestimate or simply disregard the risks of their actions. According to The Globe and Mail, an AT&T survey that was conducted in 2014 found that 75 percent of drivers recognized texting as generally risky but still did it. More than one-quarter of the same drivers believed that they personally could safely text while driving. These attitudes and misperceptions could help explain why driver distraction remains such a prevalent problem.

Recourse after accidents

Unfortunately, people who are not deterred by the known risks of distracted driving may also not be discouraged by legal bans. As a result, motorists in Oregon may face a high risk of needless accidents involving cell phone use or other reckless behaviors. Anyone who has been injured in such an accident should consider speaking to an attorney about the possibility of seeking compensation.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident