Nearly 100% of motorists have driven distracted — 1 in 3 incidents lead to a crash, survey finds

HAMILTON, Ontario — It takes one glance down at your phone to take your attention off the road, and just enough time to cause an accident. A recent study finds over 17 percent of drivers injured in car crashes were distracted behind the wheel. The survey also reveals that almost every motorist has been distracted at some point while driving over the last year.

Researchers in Canada went to four fracture clinics and enrolled 1,378 people in an anonymous survey. From those volunteers, 12 percent were hurt in a car accident. The survey asked about each person’s driving habits — examining which could lead to distracted driving. They also asked whether those distractions were the cause of their current injury or prior accidents.

A staggering 99.7 percent admitted to driving while distracted at least once in the past year. The most common causes of distracted driving were talking with a passenger and listening to or adjusting their radio. Other distractions involved daydreaming and eating or drinking. The distractions that held the highest risk of causing a car accident included texting, adjusting the GPS, daydreaming, and making calls while holding a phone.

Nearly two-thirds of people confessed to using their phones while driving. Nearly 40 percent used a handheld device to make calls. Three in five pulled over somewhere safe before looking at texts or other notifications. However, another 35 percent admit to sending messages while driving.

Additionally, 17.7 percent of respondents injured in crashes admitted to being distracted. Thirty-one percent had been distracted in previous crashes and 48 percent said distracted driving led to a “close call.”

Who is more likely to drive distracted?

Study authors categorized participants with high scores on a distracted driving survey as “distraction-prone.” People in this group had twice the risk of being involved in a car accident. Other risk factors the team found included being a male, older age, and drivers with higher income.

The researchers suggest the findings give a glimpse into how distracted driving causes car crashes. The true rate may be higher as it’s a possibility that some people did not want to admit to being distracted while behind the wheel. Moreover, the true rate might be even higher as some patients in these clinics could not be interviewed because they were more severely injured or died right after the crash.

Even so, the data is a meaningful first step toward understanding how hazardous distracted driving is to driving safety.

“These data are crucial for informing the public and the government and for educating drivers, and could help to evoke positive change,” the team writes in a media release.

The study is published in The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

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About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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