In 2009 nearly 5,500 Americans were killed due to distracted driving, and 448,000 were injured. Distracted driving means driving while texting, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a PDA or navigation system, watching a video, or fiddling with the car radio/CD/Mp3 player. Almost 1,000 of those deaths were related to cell phone usage while driving. Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into an accident. Using a cell-phone even in hands-free mode, is equivalent to driving drunk at the intoxication level .08 percent. At this level one can be considered legally drunk. However there is some indication a level as low as .02% can impair one’s ability to drive a vehicle, which would mean using a cell phone while driving would actually be worse.
A New York Times article on the subject stated, “University of Utah researchers have shown in studies that conversations on hands-free phones are just as distracting as those on handheld ones. They called the problem one of inattention blindness.” According to the Department of Transporation, hand-held devices are being used by many drivers, and constantly, “At any given moment during the daylight hours, over 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. People of all ages are using a variety of hand-held devices, such as cell phones, mp3 players, personal digital assistants, and navigation devices, when they are behind the wheel.”
DOT launched an awareness campaign about the dangers of distracted driving featuring real video stories of Americans killed by distracted drivers, or by distracting themselves while driving.
Eric Okerblom was a nineteen year-old college student and a national merit scholar. He was struck be a teenager traveling sixty miles per hour and texting at the same time. He was on the side of a road biking and not close to the vehicle lanes.
Julie Davis was a grandmother of 14, and walking with her best friend when struck by a teen going seventy miles per hour. The driver was cited for inattentive driving and fined $173. Her story is told by her daughter.
Alex Brown was a seventeen year-old high student driving on a rural road and texting at the same time. Due to the distraction she drove off the road and was killed.
These are just three of the thousands who die each year due to accidents caused by distracted driving.
Image Credit: Coolcaesar