Study: Distracted driving a significant problem near CA schools

A recent observational study of 80 California intersections suggests that distracted driving occurs at a high rate near schools in the state.

During the school year, the streets near schools in Santa Fe Springs can be a demanding place to drive, thanks to congestion, young pedestrians and the presence of inexperienced teenage drivers. Drivers who don't keep their full focus on the road in these areas put themselves and others at risk for accidents and injuries. Unfortunately, a new study indicates many drivers are dangerously distracted in these areas.

High rates of distraction

The AllState Foundation recently sponsored an observational study of intersections near California schools, according to the Central Valley Business Times. Volunteer student researchers from 28 counties monitored 80 intersections and reported the following findings:

  • Over a one-hour observational period, 8,000 instances of distracted driving occurred. This translates to 100 distracted driving behaviors happening in a given intersection every hour.
  • Cellphone use was the most common distraction, occurring an average of 39 times at each site per hour, or 3,183 times total.
  • Eating and drinking was another prevalent source of distraction, happening 2,544 times altogether, or about 32 times at each intersection during an hour.

In some counties, students also observed detrimental effects of distraction, such as drivers swerving or taking off their seatbelts to reach for objects inside the vehicle.

Some of this year's figures represented an increase over the rate of distraction observed the previous year. For example, News 10 reports that students participating in the observational study in 2012 recorded an hourly average of 31 instances of cellphone use and 30 instances of eating or drinking at each intersection.

Due to its limited size, the study does not reasonably support conclusions about population-wide patterns in distracted driving behaviors. However, other statistics indicate the issue of distracted driving remains a prevalent problem in California.

A statewide epidemic

A 2014 report from the California Office of Traffic Safety indicates that 36 percent of Californians surveyed in 2013 identified distracted driving as the most serious threat to roadway safety. Many people had experienced the dangers of distracted driving firsthand; 70 percent of drivers surveyed reported being involved or nearly involved in vehicular accidents that distracted drivers caused.

At the same time, 45 percent of Californians admitted to talking on their cellphones while driving and making significant errors while doing so. A 2012 observational study also found that, at any given daylight moment, 7.4 percent of drivers in California are using their cellphones - and alarmingly, the true figure could be larger, given the inherent limitations of observational studies.

If these findings are any indicator, distracted driving accidents will affect many Californians this year, both near schools and in other areas. Anyone who has been harmed because of a distracted driver's negligence should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss the available legal options.

Keywords: distracted, driving, texting, accident, injury