There was a big conference in Washington, D.C. this week that addressed cell phone use and texting and how these practice impaired a driver’s ability to focus on the safe operation of his or her vehicle.
The two-day summit brought together safety experts, researchers, industry representatives, elected officials and members of the public to share their expertise, experiences and ideas for reducing distracted driving behavior and addressing the safety risk posed by the growing problem across all modes of transportation.
Department of Transportation Secretary LaHood announced new research findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that show nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. On any given day in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. To further study how cell phone distraction affects commercial truck and motor coach drivers, Secretary LaHood also announced a new study the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is undertaking this month through June 2010. The study will help FMCSA better understand the prevalence of cell phone distraction in conjunction with crashes and near-crashes.
NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis has prepared a report called "An Examination of Driver Distraction as Recorded in NHTSA’s Databases." The report found that
As reported for 2008, 5,331 fatal crashes occurred that involved distraction which includes single-vehicle crashes and multi-vehicle crashes. For single-vehicle crashes, the driver was reported as distracted and thus the crash was reported as a distracted-driving crash. However, in multi-vehicle crashes, the crash was reported as a distracted-driving crash if at least one driver was reported as distracted. In some of these multi-vehicle crashes, multiple drivers were reported as distracted. In 2008, 5,501 drivers were reported as distracted in the 5,331 fatal crashes involving distraction. The portion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crash increased from 8 percent in 2004 to 11 percent in 2008.