Almost everyone agrees that distracted driving is a problem, but not everyone agrees on how big a problem it is. In 2018, the federal government estimated that 14% of all motor vehicle accidents involved distracted driving. However, the Washington Post reports on contemporaneous research by the American Automobile Association suggesting that the real figure is closer to 58%. The conjecture is that underreporting of distracted driving may account for the discrepancy.
A survey of American drivers by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that most perceive distracted driving as a threat. However, the same survey demonstrated that many drivers admit to engaging in the distracted driving behaviors that they perceive as threatening in others.
Threats to personal safety
The survey asked respondents about certain traffic behaviors and asked them to rank how much of a threat each posed to their personal safety. The potential threats included distracting behaviors such as texting, emailing or talking on a cell phone while driving. Over 77% of respondents viewed sending or reading text messages or emails while driving as a very serious threat to their personal safety, while 57.5% perceived talking on a cell phone as a very serious threat. To put those numbers into perspective, 73.5% of respondents considered driving after drinking alcohol as a very serious threat, while 54.9% felt very seriously threatened by sleepy drivers.
The survey then asked respondents to report on their own driving behaviors in the preceding 30 days, asking them how often they had engaged in activities such as sending or reading texts or emails while driving or talking on a handheld cell phone. Nearly 20% of respondents admitted to sending or typing a text or email while driving more than once within a month prior to the survey, while 23.5% admitted to reading a text or email and 26.9% said that they had talked on a handheld cell phone more than once within that time frame.