Distracted Driving Statistics
Multi-tasking has long been considered a positive skill in our culture. However, it appears that driving and multi-tasking is, not only dangerous, but about to become illegal in many instances. Whether they are talking on a cell phone, touching up makeup or texting a message to a buddy, distracted drivers have become a big problem.
Federal safety regulators indicate that texting is particularly dangerous because it distracts drivers in three different ways: visually, manually and cognitively. A study released in July by Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute found that when truckers text, they are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or close call. This study appears to have prompted the federal government to formally bar truckers and bus drivers from sending text messages while behind the wheel, adding its’ authority to a ban already supported by many large trucking and transportation companies. Drivers of commercial vehicles caught texting can now be fined up to $2,750.
Federal safety regulators have also proposed a set of guidelines for states to create laws that would ban text messaging while driving. The sample state law, announced last week, comes amid growing concern about the risks of texting while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver and more than half a million were injured.
U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, the nation’s top transportation official, is quoted as saying, "Texting while driving, like talking on cell phones while driving, is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening practice. This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving in the future." Many saw his announcement as a step that might ultimately ban cell phone use by all drivers. The proposed legislation, prepared by NHTSA and industry advisers, would authorize law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle and issue a citation to drivers who are texting while driving.
Both houses of Congress are considering bills restricting texting and 19 states have banned the practice. "It's an important first step," said Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, a coalition of state highway safety directors. "Hopefully, it will start a cultural shift away from texting and cell phone use. We'd like to see a ban on all cell phone use by drivers of commercial vehicles."
Last year, President Obama banned federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles and from texting in their own cars if they use government-issued phones or are on official business. With LaHood leading the effort, supported by mounting evidence of the dangers, Adkins said that an effort to ban cell phone use by all drivers could be proposed this year.
"At some point, we'll have to address that issue," Adkins said. "We think 2010 will be the year when we do something about distracted driving. In announcing the ban, LaHood mentioned data compiled last year by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The agency said that texting drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 out of every six seconds. At 55 mph, he said, that means a texting driver travels the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road.
Whatever happened to a thing called "common sense"? :) Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
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