What Caused More Than 50,000 Car Accidents in NC, and Why Can’t We Stop It?

Close up of a young redhead woman driver correcting her makeup

Updated 7/19/2021.

Across the country, 3,142 people were killed in collisions involving distracted drivers in 2019.

In North Carolina alone, distracted driving was to blame for 53,541 (18.8%) car accidents that same year.

And these statistics may not tell the whole story as distracted driving accidents are often under-reported.

There are many behaviors that can be considered “distracted” driving, but texting and driving is considered one of the most common – and one of the most dangerous.

While public education campaigns have been successful in curbing some dangerous behaviors, such as drunk driving, distracted driving education efforts have not had a similar effect.

If you’ve been injured in a distracted driving accident, contact a North Carolina accident attorney for help.

Texting & Driving Campaigns vs. Drunk Driving Campaigns

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and many private companies such as Toyota, AT&T, State Farm Insurance, and Allstate Insurance, have all launched distracted driving campaigns.

The result?

An increased rate nationally in the number of drivers using handheld phones (2.9 % in 2017 to 3.2% in 2018).

This is surprising because other campaigns, such as anti-drunk driving, have been able to make a much more significant difference over time.

For example, in 1988, the Harvard School of Public Health’s Center for Health Communication launched the U.S. Designated Driver campaign aimed at introducing the “designated driver” concept in an effort to reduce the number of drunk driving accidents.

When the program launched, there had been 23,626 deaths as a result of a crash involving alcohol (1988). By 1991, 52% of Americans under the age of 30 had served as designated drivers, and 54% of frequent drinkers said they had been driven home by designated drivers. And by 1992, the number of fatalities had dropped by 24%.

So, why haven’t distracted driving campaigns been able to achieve a similar decline in the number of distracted motorists?

Person dangerously texting and driving at the same timeTexting & Driving Audience Harder to Reach

One reason might be that drunk driving campaigns were launched at a time when it was much easier to reach a wider audience.

During the 1988 drunk driving campaign, there were just three broadcast networks, which the campaign used heavily to introduce their message – featuring the designated driver in popular TV shows such as “Cheers,” “L.A. Law,” and “The Cosby Show,” as well as numerous public service announcements.

Since today’s audience is spread across much more than three stations, it’s possible that the texting and driving generation may be harder to reach, in general.

Hard to Enforce = Less Effective

Another issue may be that drunk driving laws are easier to enforce.

Studies have shown that public service campaigns are significantly more effective when combined with “behavioral” measures, such as law enforcement.

North Carolina did pass a ban on texting and driving back in 2009, but senators and law enforcement officers expressed concern that the law would be difficult to enforce. From December 2009 to May 2010, just 71 citations for texting were issued statewide.

Police attributed low enforcement rates to the fact that it is difficult to tell when someone is texting versus making a phone call. If North Carolina were to ban all handheld use of cell phones, this could help to make enforcement easier and thus make safety campaigns more effective.

At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we’re committed to helping address the texting and driving problem – by fighting for the victims of these terrible accidents. If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver, contact us online today or call us at 1-866-900-7078. Our North Carolina accident attorneys will evaluate your case for free.

About the Author

Vanessa Beltran is a personal injury attorney with specific experience in vehicle accidents and medical malpractice at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. She is licensed in both North Carolina and Puerto Rico and is fluent in English and Spanish. Vanessa was named on the “Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch”a list for Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs by Best Lawyers in America in 2021. She is a member of the executive committee for the North Carolina Advocates for Justice Hispanic Latino Division, the assistant secretary to the executive committee of the board of directors of the Hispanic League, and the co-chair of the education committee of the Hispanic League.

aFor more information regarding the standards of inclusion, please visit www.bestlawyers.com.