According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,450 across the United States in 2016. We wanted to see where exactly these fatalities were occurring, and the circumstances in which they happened.
We worked with data visualization agency 1Point21 Interactive to create this map displaying every single fatal crash attributed to distracted driving in 2016 by cause and count of fatalities per collision.
*Scroll, zoom and hover for more detailed information. Click the items in the legend to toggle the visibility of each category.
Distracted driving encompasses a wide range of activities such as texting, eating and drinking, adjusting the radio, and talking to passengers. Although these may seem like common actions behind the wheel, they nonetheless divert a driver’s full attention from the road, resulting in an increased risk of car accidents or even worse…serious collisions.
Approximately 66 percent of distracted driving fatalities in 2016 were due to Driver Inattention or General Distraction. These collision deaths are caused by non-specific forms of inattentive and distracted driving, including careless driving, daydreaming, and any distractions not covered otherwise by the more specific causes.
Interestingly, only 17 percent of fatalities were attributed to use of a smartphone. Potential reasons for the low percentage may be underreporting, or miscategorizing of the incident (e.g., labeling such incidents as caused by “General Distraction” or “Driver Inattention”). Additionally, actions such as texting while driving may nonetheless contribute heavily to non-fatality collisions, which are dangerous in their own right.
Fatal Distracted Driving Crashes by Time of Day
If you drive distracted on a consistent basis, your risk for being involved in a collision go up significantly, no matter what time of day it is. However, fatal collisions attributed to distracted drivers peak at 3 pm and 4 pm. This is just before the typical rush hour and right after most high schools let out. This is significant as teens are the most likely to be reported as distracted in fatal crashes.
Notable Observations by State
A closer look at the data highlights some notable trends within each state:
A concentration of distracted driving fatalities in central Florida, within the Greater Orlando metro area. Much of these fatalities were caused by Driver Inattention.
Looks to have a high number of fatalities primarily due to Driver Inattention. Although there is a sizable cluster in the New York City/Newark region, fatalities are generally evenly distributed throughout the state.
This state has a large number of distracted driving fatalities distributed seemingly evenly throughout. The vast majority is caused by General Distraction, an uncommon outlier that warrants further detail into these collisions.
A high distribution of distracted driving fatalities caused by Mobile Device use, including an incident bordering Georgia that resulted in six fatalities. Only California and Texas seem to rival this concentration of fatalities by phone usage.
Contains a sizable amount of distracted driving fatalities (due to Driver Inattention) despite its status as a relatively rural state. There is a large cluster of fatalities, particularly around the Albuquerque region, and in all the roads leading to the major city.
The west coast state seems to be a tale of two cities with a stark contrast in causes between two regions. In Northern California and the Bay Area, General Distraction is the predominant factor of distracted driving fatalities. However, in Southern California, Mobile Phone use and Driver Inattention seem to be the prevailing causes.
Despite the high total number of fatalities associated with distracted driving on this map, the numbers are likely low. Interestingly, several states reported a suspiciously low number of distracted driving fatalities. States such as Nevada, Mississippi, and Maine show very few incidents, even in major cities. This is likely due to underreporting of distracted driving incidents, a behavior that has historically been difficult to measure.