Is Someone Fudging Texting While Driving Death Statistics?

Texting_while_at_the_wheel_(4351110509)Most of us can probably agree that texting while driving is a dangerous practice, but is it as deadly as we’re being told? Karl Henkel has been looking at the numbers, and what he’s found may surprise you:

The Numbers Game:

A few weeks back I wrote a blog post comparing two data points from two federal agencies: The number of deaths resulting from text messaging while driving and the number of deaths resulting from syphilis.

The conclusion was that more die from syphilis than from texting and driving.

But a new study claims that 3,000 teenagers die annually as a result of texting and driving. Remember, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said in 2011 there were 39 texting and driving “incidents.”

For those scoring at home, the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York says there were 77 times more deaths as a result of TWD than fatal TWD incidents reported by NHTSA. Since NHTSA, in its 2011 research note, did not report number of actual deaths — only “incidents” — I’m going to use a potentially wildly inaccurate variable to make a point. If an average of four deaths occurred for every one reported NHTSA incident, that means 156 people died as a direct result of TWD.

The Cohen report estimates 3,000 teenagers died during roughly the same period.

For another comparison, NHTSA says 3,331 people — of any age — died in accidents involving any kind of distracted driving — eating, reading, putting on makeup, etc.

Clearly, the numbers don’t add up.

Keep reading.

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  • mannyfurious

    I’ve always wondered what would happen if we added up all the numbers of all the things people die of. Would they actually meet the numbers of deaths, period, of the prior year.

    For example, we’re always being told that X-thousands of people die of smoking, x-thousands of people die from overdose, x-thousands of people die from drunk driving, x-thousands of people die from flu, and so on and so forth.

    Are these numbers real, or are people just blowing smoke up our asses for any number of reasons?

    • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

      hopefully not cigarette smoke…(you could die!!!!)

      • mannyfurious

        We wouldn’t want that to happen, would we. Dying is unnatural….

  • BuzzCoastin

    txting while driving is an effect of technology
    so is death while txting
    it will take decades for people to wise-up to this

    in China & the rest of developing Asia
    where the car is a new technology
    they are still discovering that traffic laws are for safety
    and traffic deaths are the highest in the whirled
    about 125,000 people a year die from traffic accidents in China
    with less than half the number of USA cars
    and more than 10 times the death rate
    that’s a technological effect & not an accident

    • ishmael2009

      That’s quite an essentialist view of technology isn’t it? Aren’t you really talking about societal norms and expectations? I’d say it’s a function of how a developed society views risk as opposed to a developing society, rather than an effect of the technology itself.

      • BuzzCoastin

        I’m speaking as a Media Ecologists
        all technologies (mediums) mediate cultural experiences
        e.g: the Chinese have used bikes for a long time
        till just about 10 years ago
        I have never seen people ride bikes slower than in crowed China
        put them in car
        it’s peddle to the metal & Katie bar the door
        it’s not uncommon to read of a school bus accident that kills 30 or 40
        why?
        no long term experience with this 150 year old technology

  • awakener

    what if you found out the syphilis statistics were fudged as well?

  • Haystack

    I wouldn’t think of texting while driving, but I wince at attempts to amp the problem up into a moral panic.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    For the most part, I suspect numbers are being massaged for the benefit of proposed legislation (not surprisingly drafted by lobbyists for insurers and other groups) that will result in police looking for ways to falsely attribute accidents as TWD related…which may absolve insurers of responsibility for damages. Phones have become new communications weapons of mass information…and encouraging people to shut them off or leave them where they aren’t handy will become commonplace. Suddenly finding yourself scrutinized for having access to a phone in your car after an accident…and being subjected to the confiscation and inspection of that device as a routine part of post accident investigation, will become a new avenue for random search and seizure that can be admitted in a court of law with penalties for even unrelated issues that had nothing to do with the original accident.

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    Does Sexting cause syphilis????!!!???

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