Over at Watchdog.org, I have an article about the North Dakota law enforcement campaign against distracted driving which is being conducted because April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
What I found is that, despite the hype and tax dollars expended on cell phone use in cars, accidents in which phone use is a contributing factor are a tiny percentage of all crashes in the state.
The increased enforcement is funded, in part, by a $459,000 federal grant to the N.D. Department of Transportation, according to department spokesman Jamie Olson. But given the amount of tax dollars and law enforcement time involved, how big of a problem is cell phone use in cars?
Not that big, judging by the state’s crash statistics.
Law officials reported 18,356 crashes on North Dakota roads in 2012, Olson said. Of that number, cell phone use was a “contributing factor” in just 165 crashes, less than one percent of the total. Even if we add in an additional 36 crashes attributed to the use of non-phone electronic devices such as GPS units and DVD players, the crash total rises to just 201 crashes — or 1.09 percent of all crashes.
By comparison, distractions in the car — such as eating or interacting with other passengers — contributed to 660 total crashes.
I’ve written previously about distracted driving from cell phone use as it is involved in national traffic accidents based on data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. In 2012, distracted driving due to cell phone use was involved in just 1.2 percent of fata crashes, and 0.98 percent of all crashes.
It’s also worth noting that other distractions in the car such as kids or food contribute to far more accidents than cell phones, both in North Dakota and nationally,
You really have to wonder why this issue gets so much attention from the media and law enforcement when it’s truly a very small part of the problem.