The number of fatalities related to distracted driving fell 6 percent last year but the proportion of distraction-related deaths and crashes held steady from 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported yesterday.
The NHTSA said 5,474 people died and another 448,000 were injured in distraction-related car crashes in 2009. In 2008, the agency reported 5,838 fatalities in crashes that involved distracted driving.
Last year, 995 people died in fatal crashes that involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction, the NHTSA reported. Cell phones were involved in 18 percent of fatal distraction-related deaths.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a blog post that the numbers reported by the NHTSA were “only the tip of the iceberg” because many police departments do not routinely document distraction factors in their crash reporting.
“We’re hooked on our devices and we can’t put them down, even when it means jeopardizing our own safety and the safety of others,” LaHood said.
Yesterday, the AAA reported that more than half of all drivers feel less safe on the roads now than they did five years ago. Distracted driving was the leading reason given for feeling less safe.
About 30 states have outlawed texting while driving and eight states have banned handheld cell phone use for all drivers, with legislation pending in other states.