Figures released to coincide with this week’s distracted driving summit in Washington suggest that 18% of those killed in 2009 in distracted driving car wrecks were using a cell phone. Nationwide, fatalities linked to distracted driving (which include activities other than wireless devices) actually declined by 6 percent last year. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood insists however, that the problem is still of epidemic proportions and that the figures don’t take into account police reports that don’t document the cause, if any, of the driver’s inattention.
According to LaHood, "Drivers can lose focus by using devices such as mobile phones and portable computers, or such activities as eating, talking and personal grooming."
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, 995 persons were killed and 24,000 were injured on the roads in 2009 owing to cell phone use. Overall distracted driving regardless of kind was responsible for 16% (about 5,500) of all traffic fatalities. The findings also indicated that the teenage cohort had the greatest proportion of distracted drivers, but it was the 30-somethings who had the most auto fatalities from cell phone use specifically.
As part of the summit, LaHood also announced a new rulemaking to prohibit commercial truck drivers from texting while transporting hazardous materials. Commercial truckers are already generally prohibited from texting on the job.
As we noted in a previous blog entry, the cell phone distracts the driver regardless of the age or experience level; if the driver is distracted, problems occur. Eights states have banned any wireless use other than hands-free operation but Indiana is not one of them. So stay off the cell phone while driving. Your family wants you home safe, and all the others human beings on the road want to get home safe to their families too.