Mandan News

Distraction a factor in most vehicle crashes

Distracted driving is the biggest reason for motor vehicle crashes and near crashes. Some form of driver distraction is involved in 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes, according to a study released in 2013 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The study found that the distraction occurred within three seconds before the vehicle crash.

“When you are driving, that’s all you should be doing. A distracted driver is not a safe driver,” said Karin Mongeon, who is currently managing the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s Safety Division.

Distracted driving refers to anything that diverts attention from the primary task of driving or takes a driver’s eyes off the road. Children, unrestrained pets, applying makeup or reaching for something in the vehicle are distractions not uncommon on crash reports. But increasingly, a cell phone is the primary distracting factor – and hands-free use has been found to be about as distracting as handheld.

Driving requires the ability to focus on several things at once. The increasing use of smartphones, and greater reliance on using technology while behind the wheel, have generated a growing hazard of inattentive drivers. 

Based on responses to a statewide traffic safety survey conducted by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, about 23 percent of drivers in North Dakota use a cell phone while driving on a daily basis.

In their survey report, UGPTI researchers concluded that cell phone use for texting while driving in North Dakota is trending in a dangerous direction – percentages of North Dakotans who text while driving increased. Adults who said they never text and drive fell from 61 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in 2013. Fifteen percent of those surveyed admitted to texting while driving at least a few times per month.

Almost 13 percent said they text while driving a few times a week. About 5.8 percent text daily while driving.

“I see drivers looking at their phones all the time on our streets,” said Will Albrecht, a resident of Killdeer who spends a lot of time behind the wheel in Dunn County. “It’s not just inconsiderate, it’s hazardous to everyone else sharing the road,” Albrecht said.

It is also illegal. The fine for texting while driving in North Dakota is $100.

North Dakota was one of only seven states to receive federal grant funding for texting and driving prevention. North Dakota Department of Transportation launched a campaign this month to educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving. The campaign coincides with the first multi-city high-intensity texting enforcement to hit the ground for NDDOT.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. NDDOT is asking drivers to “Hang Up” during a month-long media campaign promoting North Dakota’s safe driving “Code for the Road.” Please don’t text and drive. If you are a passenger, speak up against distraction. Learn more at www.distraction.gov.