Distracted driving causes thousands of Louisiana crashes each year

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reminds everyone to “Buckle Up, Phone Down.”

Using a cell phone while driving can have deadly consequences, LHSC Executive Director Lisa Freeman said. Activities such as eating and drinking, using a GPS, and talking to passengers may also be a distraction.

“Driving a vehicle safely is a complex activity, requiring you to estimate time, distance, speed, and intention of other road users,” Freeman said. “You also must recognize peripheral visual clues to potentially dangerous situations and be ready to react nearly instantly. You can’t do that if you’re worried about your phone.”

In 2022, distracted drivers in Louisiana were involved in 2,098 known crashes that hurt or killed someone, according to data from the Center for Analytics and Research in Transportation Safety at LSU.

Safety advocates say distracted driving is a majorly under-reported cause of crashes. Unless a law enforcement officer witnesses that a driver was distracted, that determination often relies on the driver to self-report his or her behavior, Freeman said.

“Our research shows 31% of all drivers in Louisiana engage in some sort of distracted behavior,” Freeman said, referring to a 2019 observational survey sponsored by LHSC. “It’s even worse when you look at younger drivers. Nearly two out of five drivers 16-25 years old are on the phone, having conversations, eating, or doing something besides paying full attention to their driving.”

Louisiana does have laws against distracted driving. It is illegal to use a mobile phone to “write, send or read a text-based communication” while driving a vehicle. Louisiana law also prohibits making or receiving a phone call using a hand-held device while driving through an active school zone.

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