The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently published a report entitled Eyes on the Road: Searching for answers to the problem of distracted driving. The report addresses the need for a broader strategy to deal with the ways that drivers can be distracted. Yet, interestingly, the report also seems to downplay some of the tremendous risks associated with distracted driving.

In response to the IIHS report, the National Safety Council released a statement reiterating the importance of making smart decisions to stay focused in order to avoid the risk of causing a collision. Drivers need to make a commitment to keep their attention on the road at all times and to not allow themselves to become distracted by any in-vehicle infotainment systems, cell phones or other electronic devices.

Driving Distracted Can Be Deadly

In the report, IIHS indicated that approximately 12 percent of the motor vehicle crashes over the course of 2012 involved a driver who was distracted. However, the National Safety Council (NSC) suggests that this number may actually be much higher.

The discrepancy likely arises from the fact that many drivers are not forthcoming about whether they were on their phones. Drivers don’t want to admit they engaged in unsafe behavior. Motorists may not want to admit to using electronics because they may fear that they will be accused of breaking the law and causing a crash. As a result, many accident reports do not contain information about the use of electronic devices even when such devices may have been a factor.

The IIHS report also indicated the number of traffic accident fatalities has fallen at the same time as there has been an increase in the number of motorists who are texting behind the wheel. The NSC cautions this should not be taken as an indicator of the dangers of texting or the number of traffic deaths that texting causes. The decrease in crash fatalities likely has more to do with the fact that vehicle safety technology is steadily improving, and more people are surviving serious crashes.

IIHS does acknowledge that a driver reaching for a cell phone, dialing or answering a phone had triple the risk of becoming involved in a motor vehicle crash. Even simply talking on the phone could result in a 17 percent greater risk of a traffic accident.

The fact remains: the rise of mobile technology has created a new world of risk for the modern driver. Drivers need to be aware that both handheld and hands-free electronic use can make them significantly more likely to crash. Drivers should make a commitment to keep their attention on the road and to leave electronics turned off in the car.