89 Percent Admit to Driving Distracted in CDOT Study

April 3, 2018 - April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

It's a sight far too common on Colorado roads: drivers with their heads down and hands off the wheel, distracted by their cellphones. In CDOT's 2017 annual mail survey of Colorado drivers:

  • 89 percent of participants reported driving distracted in the past seven days;
  • 40 percent of drivers admitted to reading a message on their phones;
  • 25 percent had sent a message while driving;
  • 53 percent had talked on a handheld cellphone; and
  • 54 percent had talked on a hands-free phone.

In 2016, distracted driving was a contributing factor in 16 percent of all fatal and injury crashes in Colorado.

To bring awareness and a change to this growing problem, CDOT is joining a national effort to recognize April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, bringing attention to the threat distracted drivers pose.

At-Fault Distracted Drivers in Colorado Crashes by Age Group


Total Crashes

Percent of Crashes

0-20 8,916 15.7%
21-30 16,647 29.3%
31-40 9,942 17.5%
41-50 7,588 13.4%
51-60 6,274 11.0%
61-70 3,829 6.7%

"Colorado has seen a 24 percent increase in traffic fatalities over the last two years, and the pervasiveness of distracted driving is certainly a contributing factor," said Darrell Lingk, director of the CDOT's Office of Transportation Safety. "We hear the same sentiment—that the driver only looked away from the road for a few seconds. That's all it takes to ruin a day, or worse, ruin lives."

In support of National Distracted Driving Awareness month, CDOT will launch its Drop The Distraction high-visibility public awareness and advertising campaign, encouraging Colorado drivers to arm themselves with the tools to kick their distracted-driving habit. To help arm people with these resources, CDOT will launch a new creative campaign later this month focused on ways drivers can use their phones to stop distraction at the source.

"Mobile devices are consistently one of the most dangerous distractions because they divert drivers' manual, visual and cognitive attention away from the task at hand: driving," said Sam Cole, CDOT communications manager. "There is good news; many phone manufacturers and app developers are addressing the issue, and implementing apps and devices to eliminate cellphone use while driving. We want drivers to equip themselves and their phones with the resources to prevent distraction."

In September 2017, Apple released iOS11, with a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" feature built directly into the phone's settings, blocking incoming notifications, messages and calls while driving. Once enabled, the phone will either turn on the "Do Not Disturb While Driving" feature when the phone senses the user is in motion or when the phone connects to a vehicle's entertainment system. CDOT's awareness campaig,n launching later this month, will encourage drivers to turn this setting on and offer recommendations for Android users as well.

Highlighting the human impact of distracted driving, CDOT's campaign will also feature the story of Vail resident Robye Nothnagel. In February 2017, Nothnagel was a pedestrian struck by an 18-year-old driver who was using her phone behind the wheel.

"Because she was texting, she didn't see me until I hit her windshield," Nothnagel recalls. "It was a second, and my life changed, drastically."

Even through extensive surgeries and physical therapy, Nothnagel is still recovering from the impacts of the crash and experiences daily pain from nerve damage.

"Distracted drivers are involved in more than minor fender benders," said Col. Matthew Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. "We're seeing crashes where people were engaged in distracted behaviors while driving at highway speeds. It's our responsibility to cite reckless and distracted drivers year round in order to keep Colorado roads safe for all users."

In 2017, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill that dramatically increased a first distracted driving offense from a $50 fine and one point on a driver's record to a $300 fine and four points.

CDOT's Drop The Distraction campaign educates motorists about the dangers of distracted driving, through a statewide, high-visibility awareness campaign aimed at decreasing distracted driving. For more information about distracted driving in Colorado, visit distraction.codot.gov.