Distracted Driving – A Significant Threat to Cyclists & Pedestrians

put down that phone please

A US study published in the November-December 2013 issue of Public Health Reports has found that

The rate of pedestrian fatalities per VMT [vehicle miles travelled] from distracted driving crashes increased from 116.1 in 2005 to 168.6 in 2010 (Figure 1). The rate of increase was uneven over time but was steady from 2007 to 2010. The rate of bicyclist fatalities per VMT from distracted driving crashes increased from 18.7 in 2005 to 24.6 in 2010 (Figure 2). The rate of increase was uneven over time, largely due to the small number of deaths in any given year. In contrast to the trends for pedestrians and bicyclists from 2005 to 2010, fatalities per VMT for motorist victims of distracted driving crashes largely decreased in this period, from 744.1 in 2006 to 477.7 in 2010 (Figure 3).

Interestingly recent road toll data in Australia is showing that the road toll for motorists is declining whereas for cyclists it is increasing; an outcome similar to what the authors of this paper found in regards to distracted driving.

The research paper authored by Jim Stimpson, Fernando Wilson and Robert Muelleman is available for download from my Dropbox or you can find the abstract below.


Objective. Distracted driving is an increasingly deadly threat to road safety. This study documents trends in and characteristics of pedestrian, bicycle rider, and other victim deaths caused by distracted drivers on U.S. public roads.

Methods. We obtained data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System database from 2005 to 2010 on every crash that resulted in at least one fatality within 30 days occurring on public roads in the U.S. Following the definition used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we identified distracted driving based on whether police investigators determined that a driver had been using a technological device, including a cell phone, onboard navigation system, computer, fax machine, two-way radio, or head-up display, or had been engaged in inattentive or careless activities.

Results. The rate of fatalities per 10 billion vehicle miles traveled increased from 116.1 in 2005 to 168.6 in 2010 for pedestrians and from 18.7 in 2005 to 24.6 in 2010 for bicyclists. Pedestrian victims of distracted driving crashes were disproportionately male, 25–64 years of age, and non-Hispanic white. They were also more likely to die at nighttime, be struck by a distracted driver outside of a marked crosswalk, and be in a metro location. Bicycling victims of distracted crashes were disproportionately male, non-Hispanic white, and struck by a distracted driver outside of a crosswalk. Compared with pedestrians, bicyclists were less likely to be hit in early morning.

Conclusions. Distracted drivers are the cause of an increasing share of fatalities found among pedestrians and bicycle riders. Policies are needed to protect pedestrians and bicycle riders as they cross intersections or travel on roadways.

The full reference for the paper is:

Stimpson, J. P., Wilson, F. A., Muelleman, R. I. (2013). Fatalities of pedestrians, bicycle riders, and motorists due to distracted driving motor vehicle crashes in the U.S.. 2005-2010. Public Health Reports, 128, 436-442.

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