An increase in cell phone usage has led to an increase in concern over distracted drivers. In 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers. That’s about one out of every 10 highway deaths for the year. And the number of light vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers is estimated as high as 78 percent.
Last month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood announced a new effort to address the escalating and dangerous phenomenon of drivers using hand-held cell phones. The plan includes:
• A challenge to auto manufacturers to develop guidelines for its onboard technology to reduce driver distraction
• A call for the 11 states that currently don’t ban driver texting to enact such a ban. (Ten states now also ban all hand-held cell phones while driving.)
• A partnership with driver education professionals to educate student drivers on the dangers of distracted driving
When announcing this new effort, Secretary LaHood said, “Distracted driving is an epidemic. While we’ve made progress in the past three years by raising awareness about this risky behavior, the simple fact is people are continuing to be killed and injured – unless we put an end to it.”
Statistics Show Dangers of Distracted Drivers
The NHTSA has published findings from a variety of research efforts that highlight the dangers of driving while using a cell phone:
• Text messaging while driving increases the risk for an accident by 23 times
• While traveling at 55 mph, sending or viewing a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for about the length of a football field
• Driving while using a cell phone reduces the brain’s focus on driving by about 37 percent.
The dangers of distracted driving are not limited to private motorists. In 2009 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted a study into distracted driving by commercial vehicle operators. The researchers found that distracted truck drivers pose such a risk that they recommended the drivers not only avoid using cell phone while behind the wheel, but they avoid looking at maps or use dispatching devices as well.