Fed. Agency Says Distracted Driving Highly Prevalent Everywhere

The kick-off of the nation’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month last week saw the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publicize startling findings on just how prevalent the dangerous roadway habit is.

According to the agency, which spearheads the month of awareness that it began years ago, 660,000 motorists at any given moment during the day in the U.S. are distracted by cell phone or electronic device use. That number, based on 2011 figures, mirrors numbers in 2010, despite a never-ending stream of studies and research published in that time expounding the dangers of distracted driving.

A separate NHTSA 2011 study detailed the fallout from such distractions: 3,300 people and 387,000 injuries that year were linked to crashes involving a distracted driver. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called distracted driving a “serious and deadly epidemic.”

“Powering down your cell phone when you’re behind the wheel can save lives – maybe even your own,” LaHood said in a statement.

Divide Between Beliefs, Practice Still Persists

Currently, 39 states and Washington D.C. prohibit any driver from texting behind the wheel.

According to an NHTSA driver survey conducted in 2012, nearly all of those surveyed support such bans. Almost three-fourths of those drivers support prohibitions on all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.

But the survey also found that nearly half of those surveyed said they would answer incoming calls, while about 1 in 4 responded that they would place a call on all, most or some trips.

Those numbers barely budged from those in a 2010 survey, which found that 28 percent of respondents would make a call and 49 percent would answer a call.

A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety identified the gulf between what drivers believe and what they do behind the wheel as a “culture of indifference.” Fortunately, almost 7 out of every 10 drivers surveyed by the foundation said the problem of distracted driving was “much bigger” today than three years ago.

But unfortunately, according to the NHTSA’s 2012 survey, 2 out of every 5 young drivers use hand-held devices while driving, which is nearly double the rate in 2010.

The youngest drivers often get charged higher insurance rates, and car insurance for a teenager can be the most expensive of any age range because extensive research links the age group to more hazardous roadway habits like distracted driving.

The federal agency also announced “Safety 1n Num3ers,” a newsletter on traffic safety topics that concentrates on distracted driving for its inaugural issue.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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