Distracted Drivers and School Zones a Deadly Combination

New Research Shows One of Every Six Drivers in School Zones is Distracted

distracted20drivers20web21As kids head back to school, new research from Safe Kids USA shows that one out of every six drivers in school zones is distracted by the use of cell phones, eating, drinking, smoking, reaching behind, grooming and reading. The study also found that unbelted drivers are 34 percent more likely to be distracted than belted drivers, afternoon drivers are 22 percent more likely to be distracted than morning drivers, and females are 21 percent more likely to be distracted than males.

The study, “Characteristics of Distracted Drivers in School Zones: A National Report,” consisted of more than 40,000 observational road-side surveys conducted by local Safe Kids researchers in 20 locations across the United States. Use of electronics (such as cell phones, PDAs and Smartphones) was the leading category of distraction while driving at 9.8 percent. This is a 2.5 percent increase over a 2008 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey that showed a rate of 7.3 percent.

The public expects drivers to be on their best behavior when they are near schools, however the new study shows the opposite is true when it comes to distracted driving. With recent research demonstrating that the driving skills of a distracted driver are as bad as or worse than an intoxicated driver, the overall relevance of this study is clear: almost one in six drivers in a school zone behaves like a drunk driver.

The national finding that afternoon drivers are 22 percent more likely to be distracted is significant because throughout the year one in three child pedestrian deaths occur between 3 and 7 p.m., making afternoons the most dangerous time for children to walk. Drivers who were not wearing a seat belt were the most likely group in the study to also be driving distracted, meaning drivers engaging in one risky behavior are more likely to engage in multiple unsafe driving behaviors.


While the debate over laws governing hand-held electronic device use while driving continues, simply having a law on the books may somewhat decrease the prevalence of distracted driving.
The study, which covered communities in 15 states, showed that those states with laws regulating cell phone or hand-held electronic device use in a vehicle were 13 percent less likely to have distracted drivers in school zones.  Oregon’s law to prohibit cell phone use goes into effect Jan. 1, 2010.

For a copy of the report, click here research081

Safe Kids Oregon works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under. Safe Kids Oregon is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Oregon was founded in 1995 and is led by Oregon Public Health Division.


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