April 3, 2023 - Distracted driving is a serious problem on Louisiana roads, with more than 5,000 crashes featuring injuries or fatalities occurring annually by drivers who are distracted by a passenger, something outside the vehicle, or a hand-held phone.

During National Distracted Driving Awareness month in April, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are reminding all drivers to keep their attention on the road.

“When you’re driving, that’s the only thing you should be doing,” LHSC Executive Director Lisa Freeman said. “When you’re looking at your phone or having conversations with passengers, your full attention is not focused on driving, and that’s where we get into trouble.”

In 2021, distracted drivers in Louisiana were involved in 5,030 crashes in which at least one person was injured or killed, according to data from the Center for Analytics in Research and Transportation Safety at LSU. Of those crashes, 53 resulted in at least one fatality, the highest number of distracted-related fatal crashes in Louisiana since 2009.

Additionally, traffic safety experts say the problem with distracted driving is that it is almost certainly under-reported because it is difficult for law enforcement officers to determine if a driver was distracted unless the driver self-reports the distraction.

“Our law enforcement partners are doing their part, but we all have a role in eliminating distracted driving,” Freeman said. “Each of us must decide to focus on driving and keep distractions to a minimum.”

new study published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that friends and family members can be effective in convincing others of the dangers of distracted driving. The study also states that, “Parents should set positive examples for their children … by exhibiting safe driving behaviors and should communicate expectations and consequences regarding distracted driving and other unsafe behaviors when their teen is driving.”

Freeman agreed that parents have great influence in helping their children develop safe driving habits.

“Teen drivers' first driving lessons start when they are still children, watching their parents in the car,” Freeman said. “By the time children are teenagers, they have already learned behavior from how their parents drive, not just by what they say.”