September 20, 2010
A new report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says accidents involving reports of distracted driving caused 16% of all traffic fatalities in 2009, up from 10% in 2005.
The NHTSA defines “distraction” as a specific type of inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention from the driving task to focus on some other activity instead, including use of hand held devices such as cell phones.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released the report entitled Distracted Driving 2009 today in advance of the second National Distracted Driving Summit held on September 21, 2010, in Washington, DC.
“These numbers show that distracted driving remains an epidemic in America, and they are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Secretary LaHood. “Tomorrow, I’m convening our second Distracted Driving Summit in the hopes that we can continue to draw attention to the dangers of distracted driving and work together to save lives.”
Other key findings of the report:
- In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving (FARS and GES).
- Of those people killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes).
- Of those injured in distracted-driving-related crashes, 24,000 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (5% of injured people in distraction-related crashes).
- Twenty percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.
- The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.
- Of those drivers involved in fatal crashes who were reportedly distracted, the 30- to 39-year-olds had the highest proportion of cell phone involvement.
Secretary Ray LaHood wrote an op-ed piece appearing in the Orlando News Sentinel today entitled Save lives on the road – hang up and drive. The article told the story of the driver of a tractor-trailer distracted by texting who plowed into the back of one car and set off a chain reaction involving eight more vehicles, killing two people.
Attending the National Distracted Driving Summit this year are leading transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement, industry representatives, researchers, and victims affected by distraction-related crashes to address challenges and identify opportunities for national anti-distracted driving efforts. Key topics will include research, technology, policy, public outreach and best practices in enforcement.
You can find out more at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s distracted driving website http://www.distraction.gov/
“Working together, we can put an end to the thousands of needless deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving each year,” said Secretary LaHood in a press release about the Summit. “By getting the best minds together, I believe we can figure out how to get people to put down their phones and pay attention to the road.”