In case it wasn’t crystal clear that distracted driving is dangerous, now there’s proof, courtesy of thousands of people who volunteered to put cameras in their cars. The footage showed that drivers were distracted seconds before an accident in more than two-thirds of crashes.

Drivers more than doubled their risk of an accident by taking their eyes off the road while doing things like texting, reading a text or looking at a phone screen, study results showed.

In-car cameras filming volunteer drivers(Photo: Virginia Tech)
"These findings are important because we see a younger population of drivers, particularly teens, who are more prone to engaging in distracting activities while driving," said Tom Dingus, lead author of the study and director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, in a press release. "Our analysis shows that, if we take no steps in the near future to limit the number of distracting activities in a vehicle, those who represent the next generation of drivers will only continue to be at greater risk of a crash."

While the risks of distracted driving are widely reported, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researchers also found something surprising: The risk of crashes rose significantly when drivers were feeling “emotionally agitated” — angry, sad or crying.

Related: 8 Driving Tips for People with ADHD

Virginia Tech researchers used results from the Second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study, the largest light-vehicle naturalistic driving study ever conducted, with more than 3,500 participants. The results of the study were used to create a database of 1,600 crashes, from minor (hitting a curb) to serious (“police-reportable crashes”).

"We have known for years that driver-related factors exist in a high percentage of crashes, but this is the first time we have been able to definitively determine — using high-severity, crash-only events that total more than 900 — the extent to which such factors do contribute to crashes," Dingus said.

Other driver behaviors that contribute to crashes include traveling well above the speed limit, sudden or improper braking and being unfamiliar with a vehicle or road.

Surprisingly, behaviors that did not appear to contribute much to crashes were applying makeup, changing the radio station and eating or drinking — though it’s still a bad idea to do anything but drive when you’re behind the wheel.

Related: Hands-Free Talking and Texting Is Killing Us

Traffic-related deaths are rising

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to reduce crashes by changing drivers’ ways.

It recently announced the number of traffic-related deaths rose sharply in 2015. “We’re seeing red flags across the U.S. and we’re not waiting for the situation to develop further,” said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind in a press release. “It’s time to drive behavioral changes in traffic safety and that means taking on new initiatives and addressing persistent issues like drunk driving and failure to wear seat belts.”

The NHTSA is embarking on a series of nationwide summits in which they will “gather ideas, engage new partners, and generate additional approaches to combat human behavioral issues that contribute to road deaths.” At a summit in Atlanta, NHTSA Rosekind said the “only acceptable number of traffic deaths is zero.”

The Governors Highway Safety Association live-tweeted Rosekind’s speech:



Related: Staying Alive: How to Cut Your Risk of Dying in a Car Accident

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Angela is a Pulitzer Prize-winning digital editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and information to audiences worldwide. Prior to joining SafeBee, she was the features editor for Boston.com at The Boston Globe, overseeing health, travel, entertainment, business and lifestyle coverage. Before moving to features, she was the news and homepage editor, covering stories such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Red Sox World Series victories, presidential elections, a papal inauguration, and more. Her favorite safety tip: Clean your phone! The average cell phone has 18 times more germs than the toilet handle in a men’s restroom.