Distracted Driving Roadway Fatalities Hit Record Highs, And The Problem Is Likely Worse That Current Numbers Show

April 11, 2023 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff | Tips & Information , News & Media

Distracted Driving Roadway Fatalities Hit Record Highs, And The Problem Is Likely Worse That Current Numbers Show

Nearly 46,000 people died in U.S. traffic crashes in one year, the latest federal statistics show, showing a dramatic increase in roadway deaths, including crashes involving at least one distracted driver.

In all, the number of accident fatalities is at its highest number in 16 years and a 22% increase over 2021, according to the final 2022 numbers released recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, more than 3,500 people were killed in crashes at least one distracted driver, a 12% increase year-over-year.

Traffic experts say distracted driving deaths are related to America’s addiction to cell phones, and has turned into a public health crisis. Besides deaths, hundreds of thousands or more life-altering injuries — broken limbs, brain injuries, horrible burns — occur every year due to distracted driving crashes.

“By changing your music, texting, or reaching for that snack in your vehicle, you are gambling with your life and the lives of others,” said Matt Clark, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Clark. “It takes but that instant to change your life forever.”

Learn more below about distracted driving problem on our roadways, and what’s being done to address the issue.



National Distracted Driving Coalition estimates the actual number of fatal crashes in which distracted driving is to blame lies between 25% to 30%. A poll by Nationwide Insurance showed its agents believed 50% of all crashes involved distracted driving. The problem is no one can say for sure, and the reasons for this are many:

  • America’s car crash data system was created decades ago and has not kept up with technological progress.
  • Dfferent states and different police departments collect data in different ways, sometimes still in paper accident report forms that don’t include check boxes or sections for distracted driving.
  • At crash scenes, distracted driving is rarely obvious, and proving someone was using a cellphone can be a lengthy, complicated endeavor.
  • Drivers are reluctant to admit that they were using their phone before a crash. In some cases, the driver and other witnesses might be dead and unable to offer any testimony; whereas it’s relatively easy to figure out whether someone was speeding or impaired.

National Distracted Driving Coalition was formed in 2021 and has been redoubling efforts to fix the data problem to help persuade cellphone makers, motor vehicle manufacturers, software companies, lawmakers, and distracted drivers that the problem constitutes a public health crisis. The group is also attempting take advantage of new technologies including machine learning to better measure the prevalence of distracted driving on U.S. highways and to make serious efforts to reduce it.



A recent Governors Highway Safety Association report showed that 67% of respondents were “concerned” about hand-held phone use while driving, while concern about texting while driving reached 80%. Another 98% of those polled told Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety they are extremely or very concerned about distacted driving as a safety issue. But a Travelers Insurance survey showed drivers still use their cell phones while driving:

  • 77% said they used their phone while driving.
  • 74% used cellphone maps.
  • 56% read a text or email.
  • 27% updated or checked social media.
  • 19% — 1 in 5 — shopped online while driving.

Another recent State Farm survey statistics showed more than half of respondents said they “always” or “often” read or send text messages while driving, 43% said they watched cellphone videos always or often while driving, and more than a third said they always or often drove while engaged in a video chat.



Distracted driving laws have been passed in many of the 50 states but differ in requirements and in level of enforcement, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. An analysis found that monthly crash rates per 100,000 people dropped substantially in Oregon and Washington after those states adopted laws against holding a phone while driving. However, California failed to achieve the same gains. California broadened its laws in 2017, adding language that ensured that the only acceptable cellphone interaction was via hands-free systems that required minimal manual input. The base fines for a first and second offense were only $20 and $50 in California, compared with $136 and $234 in Washington and $265 and $440 in Oregon. California also amended its law to add one penalty point to a driver’s license for a second offense if it occurs within three years of the first one.

In Europe, automakers will soon be required to install monitors to detect driver distraction. No such move has being publicly contemplated in the United States. The National Transportation Safety Board has called for a total ban on in-car device use — excluding built-in infotainment systems — while driving, except in emergencies.

Some advances have been mostly ignored by American government officials, according to National Distracted Driving Coalition. One is the use of video cameras and machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, to assess the prevalence of cellphone driver distraction in real time. The systems peer into the windshields of passing cars and assess whether someone is using their phone. The systems hide faces and other individual markings and aggregate the data to assess trends and, the makers say, are not used to make a legal case against individual drivers.

Other companies are able to disable the most driver-distracting features of a phone or in-car infotainment system while the car is in operation. A company called NoCell Technologies can disable phone features or the entire phone and report whether a driver is using a phone, when and for how long.

National Distracted Driving Coalition officials continue to aim to persuade cellphone makers, motor vehicle manufacturers, software companies, lawmakers, and distracted drivers themselves to make serious efforts to reduce the problem.

“The stark reality is this: unless there are sweeping reforms in both driver conduct and public policy, countless tens of thousands will perish annually, leaving behind shattered families and friends,” Clark, with Law Office of Chain | Cohn | Clark, said. “Is this a price we, as a society, are willing to pay? I hope we can all summon the courage to create a better tomorrow by taking positive steps today.”


If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.