Facts and statistics

Know the facts

Each year in Iowa, an average of 400 people die in motor vehicle crashes; far too many. Learn about two of the riskiest driving behaviors – distracted driving and not wearing a seat belt.

  • Operators of all type of vehicles used to transport people and freight can easily be distracted by text messaging.
  • The number one source of driver inattention is use of a wireless device. (Source: Virginia Tech/NHTSA)
  • What is a mobile communication device?
    There are lots of different types of mobile communication devices. These are a few examples.
    • Mobile phone
    • Cellular telephone
    • Smartphone
    • Pager
    • Personal digital assistant (PDA)
    • Mobile E-mail device
  • What is a mobile electronic entertainment device?
    Here are just a few examples.
    • Portable media player
    • E-book reader
    • Game console
    • Tablet PC
    • Carputer
    • iPad
    • mp3 player
    • DVD
    • Mobile TV
    • iPod
    • Laptop computer
  • According to CTIA (The International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry), Americans sent more than 1.5 trillion text messages last year — or 5 billion text messages per day.
  • What are the three main types of driver distraction?
    • Visual – taking your eyes off the road
    • Manual – taking you hands of the wheel
    • Cognitive – taking your mind off what you are doing
  • Federal Railroad Administration's Emergency Order 26 restricts the improper use of certain electronic and electrical devices by railroad operating employees, including talking on cell phones and texting.
  • Six serious train accidents occurred between May 2002 and September 2008 in the United States that were caused by distracted operators using electronic devices.
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations prohibit commercial motor vehicle operators from texting and driving.
  • A person convicted of violating the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulation prohibiting commercial motor vehicle drivers from texting while driving may be subject to civil and criminal penalties up to $2,750 per occurrence.
  • Federal Aviation Administration’s Sterile Cockpit rule prohibits pilots from engaging in any type of distracting behavior during critical phases of flight, including take-off and landing.
  • Pedestrians distracted by cell phone calls and text messages risk deadly encounters when entering a crosswalk, crossing the street or railroad tracks, and walking in the vicinity of cars, trains and buses.
  • Texting takes your eyes off the road an average of five seconds at a time. At 55 mph, that is like driving the length of a football field – completely blind.
    (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute research, available at
  • Texting while driving is like driving after having four beers.
    (Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver, available at
  • Texting makes drivers 23 times more likely to crash.
    (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute research, available at
  • Texting results in car crashes that kill an average of 11 teens each day.
    (IIHS fatality facts 2008, available at
  • Texting results in 330,000 distracted driving injuries every year.
    (National Safety Council Cell Phone fact sheet, available at
  • Ten percent of drivers age 16-24 are on the phone at any one time
  • Driver distractions or inattentive driving play a part in one out of four crashes.
  • What is distracted driving? Distracted driving is any nondriving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing. (Source: U.S. DOT)
  • What is the most alarming driver distraction?
    Texting, because it involves all three types of distraction - visual, manual and cognitive (Source: U.S. DOT)
  • Using a cell phone while driving reduces what amount of brain activity associated with driving?
    37 percent (Source: Carnegie Mellon)
  • How many people die each year in crashes involving a distracted driver?
    Nearly 6,000 die and an estimated 515,000 people are injured. (Source: NHTSA)
  • Which age group has the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes?
    Young, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old represent 16 percent of these crashes.
  • Drivers who use handheld devices are how many times as likely to get into a crash serious enough to injure themselves?
    Four times (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Using a cell phone while driving, whether it is handheld or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions equal to what?
    It is equal to having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)
  • What type of vehicle operators are most frequently distracted at the time of fatal crashes?
    Motorcyclists and drivers of light trucks (12 percent) (Source: NHTSA)
  • Driver distraction was coded in motor vehicle accident reports as the critical reason that made the crash imminent in what percentage of crashes?
    18 percent (source: The National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey)
  • How many vehicles are on the roadway at any given moment during daylight hours that are being driven by someone using a handheld cell phone?
    812,000 vehicles (Source: NHTSA)
  • What percentage of vehicles are on the road at any given moment that are being driving by someone using a handheld or hands-free cell phone?
    11 percent (Source: NHTSA)
  • Teen drivers holding a restricted driver’s license (instruction permit, intermediate license, minor school license or license issued to teens not attending school) are barred from using electronic communication and entertainment devices while driving.
  • All drivers on Iowa’s roadways are prohibited from texting and driving.
  • Iowa’s laws that prohibit texting by all drivers, and use of electronic communication and entertainment devices by teen drivers are effective July 1, 2010.
  • Until June 30, 2011, persons who violate Iowa’s laws that prohibit texting by all drivers, and use of electronic communication and entertainment devices by teen drivers will be issued a warning.
  • The fine for violating the law prohibiting teens from using electronic communication and entertainment devices while driving is at least $127.50.
  • The driver’s license sanction for violating the law prohibiting teens from using electronic communication and entertainment devices while driving includes a 30-day suspension.
  • The driver’s license sanction for violating the law prohibiting teens from using electronic communication and entertainment devices while driving includes the restarting of the crash-free and moving traffic violation-free period necessary to go to the next graduated driver’s license level.
  • A person who was texting and is involved in a crash that causes a serious injury is subject to an additional fine or $500 and having their license suspended for 90 days.
  • A person who was texting and is involved in a crash that results in a death is subject to an additional fine or $1,000 and having their license suspended for 180 days.
  • Iowa’s texting law does not prohibit use of a GPS or navigation system.
  • Nonresidents of Iowa must abide by the same safety laws and cannot text and drive.

  • How many lives are saved every year by wearing seat belts?
    An estimated 9,500 lives are saved (Source: NHTSA)
  • Seat belts provide what safety functions in the event of a crash?
    They prevent passengers from being thrown from the vehicle and reduce the risk of collision with the steering wheel, windshield, dashboard and other vehicle occupants.
  • Did you know that every hour someone dies in America simply because they did not take two seconds to buckle up?
  • What plays a role in more motor vehicle fatalities than any other traffic safety-related behavior?
    Failing to buckle up
  • If a crash occurs at 40 mph, a 150 pound, unbelted occupant with be thrown from the vehicle with what amount of force?
    6,000 pounds of force
  • Three out of four crashes occur within how many miles of home?
    25 miles; they happen on the way to school, work, grocery store or even within your own neighborhood.
  • Three out of four people who are ejected from a vehicle during a crash will die as a result.
  • Six out of 10 children who died in passenger vehicle crashes were unbelted.
    (Source: NHTSA)
  • What percentage of pickup truck drivers killed in traffic crashes were not wearing a seat belt?
    68 percent
  • What is the leading cause of death for every age group from four through 33 years old?
    Motor vehicle crashes
  • You are more likely to survive a crash involving fire or water (˝ of one percent of all crashes) if you do what?
    Wear your safety belt. The best chance of survival rests in remaining conscious, uninjured and in full possession of your faculties so you can get out of the vehicle.
  • What percentage of child safety seats are not used correctly?
    80 percent
  • What percentage of passengers restrained where ejected from car seats during a car crash?
    Only 1 percent (Source: Naval Safety Center)
  • Of persons ejected from the vehicles, what percentage were killed?
    73 percent (Source: Naval Safety Center)
  • What percentage of child deaths from motor vehicle crashes could be prevented by properly securing the safety restraint system and seat belts?
    80 percent (Source: James Madison University)
  • Iowans, not the person involved in the crash, pay 85 percent of the medical bills associated with motor vehicle crashes through insurance, taxes, etc.
  • Buckling up is FREE and takes approximately two seconds.
  • Seat belts, when used, are the most effective safety feature ever introduced for vehicles.
  • Any person under age 18 must be buckled up while driving or as a passenger in a motor vehicle.
  • All front-seat passengers must be buckled up, regardless of their age.
  • A teen driving holding a restricted driver’s license cannot have more passengers in their vehicle than number of seat belts.
  • A person 14 years and older capable of properly fastening their seat belt will be issued a ticket if they are not buckled up.
  • The fine for not using a seat belt is at least $127.50.
  • The fine for violating the Child Restraint Devices law is at least $195.
  • Iowa has a primary seat belt enforcement law, which means a law enforcement officer can stop a vehicle and issue a citation for a violation of law even if this is the only violation the officer observes.
  • A conviction for violating a seat belt law will go on a person’s driving record. However, it is not considered a moving violation
  • Seat belts are not designed to restrain two bodies. If two persons are using the same belt, this would be a violation of the law.
  • Iowa’s seat belt laws do not apply to children riding in a school bus.
  • Iowa’s seat belt laws do not apply to motorcycle and motorized bicycle operators and passengers.
  • Nonresidents of Iowa must buckle up and abide by the same safety laws.
  • Iowa’s seat belt usage rate is 93.1 percent.
  • Your chances of surviving a crash are up to 70 percent better if you are wearing a seat belt.

Q: What if my baby weighs more than 20 pounds, but is not yet one year old?
A: Use a seat that can be used rear-facing to higher weights and keep your baby rear-facing as long as possible into the second year of life.

Q: What do I do if my baby slouches down or to the side in his car safety seat?
A: Blanket rolls may be placed on both sides of the infant, and a small diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and infant. Do not place padding under or behind the infant or use any sort of car safety seat insert, unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the seat.

Q: Can I adjust the straps when my baby is wearing thicker clothing, like in the winter?
A: Yes, but make sure the harnesses are still snug. Remember to tighten the straps again after the thicker clothes are no longer needed. Dress your baby in thinner layers instead of a bulky coat or snowsuit, and tuck a blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps if needed.

Q: Are rear-facing convertible seats ok to use for preemies?
A: Premature infants should be tested while still in the hospital to make sure they can ride safely in a reclined position. Babies who need to lie flat during travel should ride in a crash-tested car bed. Very small infants who can ride safely in a reclined position usually fit better in infant-only seats; however, if you need to use a convertible seat, choose one without a tray-shield harness. The shields often are too big and far from the body to fit correctly, and the child’s face could hit the shield in a crash.

Q: What if I drive more children than can be buckled safely in the back seat?
A: It’s best to avoid this, especially if your vehicle has air bags in the front seat. All children younger than 13 years should ride in the back seat. If absolutely necessary, a child in a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness may be the best choice to ride in front. Just be sure the vehicle seat is moved as far back away from the dashboard (and the air bag) as possible.

Q: What do I need to know if my child will be driven by someone else, such as for child care or school?
A: If your child is being driven by someone else, make sure:
  • The car safety seat your child will be using fits properly in the vehicle used for transport.
  • The car safety seat being used is appropriate for the age and size of your child.
The person in charge of transporting your child knows how to install and use the car safety seat correctly.

Q: I’ve seen products that say they can help make the seat belt fit better. Should we get one of these?
A: No, these products should not be used. In fact, they may actually interfere with proper seat belt fit by causing the lap belt to ride too high on the stomach and making the shoulder belt too loose. They can even damage the seat belt. This rule applies to car safety seats as well. Do not use any extra products unless they came with the seat. There are no federal safety standards for these products and until then they are not recommend. As long as children are riding in the correct restraint for their size, they should not need to use any additional devices.

Q: What if my car only has lap belts in the back seat?
A: Lap belts work fine with infant-only, convertible and forward-facing seats. If your car only has lap belts, use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness and higher weight limits. Other options are to:
  • Check to see if shoulder belts can be installed in your vehicle.
  • Use a travel vest (some can be used with lap belts).

Q: Is there a difference between high-back and backless boosters?
A: Both types of boosters are designed to raise your child so the seat belts fit properly, and both will reduce your child’s risk of injury in a crash. High-back boosters are useful in vehicles that do not have head rests or have low seat backs. Many seats that look like high-back boosters are actually combination seats. They come with harnesses that can be used for smaller children and then removed for older children. Backless boosters are usually less expensive and easier to move from vehicle to vehicle. Backless boosters can be safely used in vehicles with head rests and high seat backs.