In 2019, distracted driving led to 3,142 fatalities, an estimated 424,000 injuries, and 15 percent of all police-reported vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

Housing nearly 90 percent of the continuous naturalistic driving data in the world, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute seeks to improve transportation safety to eliminate distracted driving fatalities, which are caused by activities that divert attention from driving, including interacting with a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in the vehicle, adjusting with the stereo, entertainment, or a navigation system.

To broaden the scope of its research impact, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has joined the newly launched National Distracted Driving Coalition as a member institution. The goal of the coalition is to accelerate national efforts to implement short- and long-term interventions that will promote attentive driving and eliminate distracted driving fatalities and injuries. 

“As a member of the National Distracted Driving Coalition, our research institute is looking forward to contributing to improving the quality of data collection on prevalence of distracted driving on U.S. roadways and conducting research to limit distracted driving-related crashes,” said Charlie Klauer, VTTI researcher and industrial and systems engineering professor at Virginia Tech who is serving on the coalition’s steering committee. “Eliminating distracted driving crashes on our roadways will require a multi-pronged, multidisciplinary approach. I am excited to share the institute’s research with the committee.”

The National Distracted Driving Coalition’s steering committee is composed of individuals from government, academia, and industry who are dedicated to creating a culture of attentive drivers.

In one study, VTTI researchers analyzed 905 injurious and property damage crash events and concluded that 90 percent of the 905 crashes were caused by driver-related factors, including error, impairment, fatigue, and distraction. 

In their distracted driver research, VTTI researchers were the first to estimate crash risk, and discovered that tasks that require the driver’s eyes to be diverted from the forward roadway significantly increased risk of crash involvement. This is true for drivers of all ages, however primarily true for adolescent drivers. Teenage drivers tend to split their attention between a secondary task and the roadway directly in front of the car.

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