Cell Phone Distraction Cited in 16% of All Fatal Crashes in 2008
This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation began the Distracted Driving Summit which brought government officials, safety advocates, researchers, and lawmakers together to focus on the growing hazard of drivers using cell phones to talk or text behind the wheel. The Obama Administration reported that in 2008 nearly 6,000 people were killed and over a half-million people were injured due to driver distraction caused by cell phone use. Transportation officials reported that driver distraction was involved in 16% of all fatal auto accidents last year. Officials also reported that the greatest age group of distracted drivers was those under the age of 20, and in that age group 16% of all fatal crashes were blamed on distracted drivers - either texting or talking on cell phones.
According to CTIA-The Wireless Association (the trade group for the cell phone industry), the popularity of texting has increased from 10 billion text messages a month in 2005 to more than 110 billion texts per month in 2008. A separate report by Car and Driver magazine found that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving intoxicated.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws making it illegal to text message while driving, and seven states have banned handheld cell phone use entirely. Many safety groups including the National Safety Council want a nationwide ban on handheld cell phone use behind the wheel. Other groups such as the Washington-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety have petitioned the government to consider federal rules banning drivers of heavy trucks such as tractor trailers, motor coaches, and large vans from texting or talking while driving.