Distracted Driving Tied to Traffic Fatalities

<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/car_accidents">Distracted driving crashes were linked to 5,474 fatalities and 448,000 injuries nationwide in 2009, alone, said ABC News.

“People [need to] take personal responsibility for the fact that they’re driving a three or four thousand pound car,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, speaking to ABC News. “If you’re looking down at a cell phone for four seconds or a texting device for four seconds, you’re driving the length of a football field without looking at the road,” La Hood added.

Although traffic deaths did drop to their lowest levels in 2009 since 1950—due in part, to mandatory seatbelt laws and a decrease in drinking and driving—drivers are, increasingly, using cell phones, which led to an increase of 16 percent from 10 percent for traffic deaths tied to distracted driving crashes linked to cell phones from 2005 to 2009. “We’re right at the starting gate here in terms of where the country was at when nobody buckled up and now 85 percent of the people buckle up,” LaHood said. “It took 10 years to get that,” he added, quoted ABC News.

Drivers under the age of 20 tend to be the most distracted when driving, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), but those likeliest to be using a cell phone while driving were people aged 30 to 39, said the NHTSA report, said ABC News. “It is very concerning and it’s concerning to the extent that most young people think they’re invincible,” LaHood told ABC News. “You need to put the cell phone and the Blackberry in the glove compartment right after you buckle up.”

LaHood is convening the second National Distracted Driving Summit in Washington to collaborate with “transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement, industry representatives, researchers, and family members of victims of distraction-related crashes,” wrote ABC News. LaHood is urging penalties for texting drivers, pointing out that deaths due to drunk driving did not decrease until drivers began getting arrested and losing their licenses, said ABC news.

LaHood said he is speaking with firms regarding the development of a cell phone outfitted with a chip, or implanting cars with a chip that disables cell phones when the car’s owner is in the driver’s seat, reported ABC News.

Meanwhile, we wrote in January that truckers and bus drivers are banned from texting when driving. The Washington Post recently reported that cell phone use and texting while driving leads to an astronomical 1.6 million automobile accidents annually, according to estimates by the National Safety Council (NSC). This means, that at the time the data were compiled, 28 percent of all vehicular crashes that occurred on US highways each year are the result of drivers texting or talking on their cell phones.

In July, Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute revealed that texting truckers are 23 times likelier to either be involved in a crash or a near miss, said the Washington Post. According to the NSC press release, 1.4 million crashes each year are caused by drivers using cell phones with a minimum of 200,000 additional crashes each year caused by drivers who are texting.

We have long been following accidents resulting from drivers texting or talking on cell phones when driving. For example, in 2008, the Federal Railroad Administration issued an emergency order prohibiting all train operators from using cell phones while on duty. The new rule was issued years after it first considered the matter, two weeks after the California Public Utilities Commission imposed the same restriction, and one day after the National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report saying that text messages were sent and received by Metrolink engineer Robert M. Sanchez’s cell phone in the moments before his commuter train collided with a Union Pacific freight train that September. Twenty-five people died and 135 sustained injuries in that accident.

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