Distracted driving is an increasingly deadly threat to road safety. This study documents trends in and characteristics of pedestrian, bicycle rider, and other victim deaths caused by distracted drivers on U.S. public roads.
We obtained data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System database from 2005 to 2010 on every crash that resulted in at least one fatality within 30 days occurring on public roads in the U.S. Following the definition used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we identified distracted driving based on whether police investigators determined that a driver had been using a technological device, including a cell phone, onboard navigation system, computer, fax machine, two-way radio, or head-up display, or had been engaged in inattentive or careless activities.
The rate of fatalities per 10 billion vehicle miles traveled increased from 116.1 in 2005 to 168.6 in 2010 for pedestrians and from 18.7 in 2005 to 24.6 in 2010 for bicyclists. Pedestrian victims of distracted driving crashes were disproportionately male, 25–64 years of age, and non-Hispanic white. They were also more likely to die at nighttime, be struck by a distracted driver outside of a marked crosswalk, and be in a metro location. Bicycling victims of distracted crashes were disproportionately male, non-Hispanic white, and struck by a distracted driver outside of a crosswalk. Compared with pedestrians, bicyclists were less likely to be hit in early morning.
Distracted drivers are the cause of an increasing share of fatalities found among pedestrians and bicycle riders. Policies are needed to protect pedestrians and bicycle riders as they cross intersections or travel on roadways.