• Sep 20th 2010 at 2:32PM
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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has released his department's findings on the impact of distracted driving on highway safety in 2009, and according to research conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 5,474 people died due to distracted driving last year, with another 448,000 people injured. Those are big numbers, and NHTSA says the number of people killed due to distracted driving marks a total of 16 percent of all traffic fatalities last year. In 2005, the deaths were just 10 percent of the total figure. Even as high as those numbers are, La Hood warns that they may misrepresent the severity of the problem.

NHTSA says that not all law enforcement agencies are trained to recognize when an accident is caused by distracted driving, and as a result, the actual figures may be much higher than what's been reported.

LaHood is hosting a distracted driving summit in Washington, D.C. aimed at increasing awareness about the problem nationally. Hit the jump for a look at the press release.

[Source: NHTSA]

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces 2009 Distracted Driving
Fatality and Injury Numbers Prior to National Distracted Driving Summit

WASHINGTON – On the eve of the 2010 Distracted Driving Summit, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that distracted driving-related crashes claimed 5,474 lives and led to 448,000 traffic injuries across the U.S. in 2009. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research, distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009 – the same percentage as in 2008.

In a Sunday op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel, Secretary LaHood revealed the latest statistics, but cautioned that researchers believe the epidemic of distracted driving is likely far greater than currently known. Police reports in many states still do not routinely document whether distraction was a factor in vehicle crashes, making it more difficult to know the full extent of the problem. You can read the op-ed at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/os-ed-distracted-drivers-ray-lahood-020100917,0,2486899.story

"These numbers show that distracted driving remains an epidemic in America, and they are just the tip of the iceberg," said Secretary LaHood. "Tomorrow, I'm convening our second Distracted Driving Summit in the hopes that we can continue to draw attention to the dangers of distracted driving and work together to save lives."

The NHTSA study found that the proportion of fatalities associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent to 16 percent between 2005 and 2009. This news comes as overall traffic fatalities fell in 2009 to their lowest levels since 1950.

According to NHTSA data, the age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group. Sixteen percent of all under-20 drivers involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted while driving. Of those drivers involved in fatal crashes who were reportedly distracted, the 30-39 year old group had the highest proportion of cell phone involvement. The report can be seen at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811379.pdf

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 21, 2010, Secretary LaHood will convene a second National Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C. Leading transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement, industry representatives, researchers and the family members of victims of distraction-related crashes will come together to address challenges and identify opportunities for national anti-distracted driving efforts. U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar will also speak at the summit. A live webcast of the summit will air on www.distraction.gov, enabling people from across the country to participate.

For more information about distracted driving and the 2010 Distracted Driving Summit, visit www.distraction.gov.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I find it interesting that one of the biggest issues with distracted driving and phone conversations is that a driver is holding a device during the conversation when the studies show it's the conversation itself that is the distraction. Yet, automakers continue to cater to the drivers who make phone calls while in motion with bluetooth and integrated cell phones in the cars. It surprises me that the government hasn't mandated cell signal blockers which are active when a vehicle is not in park in cars which are active when a vehicle is not in park or simply disabling human to human communication devices while the vehicle is in motion if they really want to "save lives".

        • 5 Years Ago
        Why block the signal of the passenger's cell phones? Drivers just need to ACTUALLY DRIVE WHILE DRIVING!!!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, and they keep making passenger seats too. They clearly aren't focused on safety.

        The phone isn't the problem. The driver that can't balance his level of distraction (there's ALWAYS some level of distraction) with traffic conditions is the problem. Stop handing licenses to people that can't handle the responsibility, and the problem will go away.
      • 5 Years Ago
      is road head on the list?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Quote: "the actual figures may be much higher than what's been reported." I would go even further and say that most car accidents are due to distractions.
      • 5 Years Ago
      He is correct that the numbers are low. Almost all who crashed (and were at fault) will not admit they were doing something else while driving. And unless others saw it, most will not subpoena call records (and judges probably not issue warrants for those records).
        • 5 Years Ago
        They should, that would remove these parasites from the pool of drivers.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My friend's GF was driving her SUV to work and texting, she says she did not pay attention to what was happening and quickly tried to right the SUV, so she flipped over several times but came out scratch free. Needless to say she did not learn anything and still texts and talks while she drives.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Perhaps your friend's girlfriend should sue the automaker for providing an unsafe vehicle. If the vehicle was safe, it wouldn't have rolled when she drifted then over-corrected while texting.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Tell her I'll Cee U (her) Next Tuesday.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh so he doesn't think the root cause is all those licenses he handed to morons? The phone is what's really to blame? Right...
        • 5 Years Ago
        A friend said it best to me.
        Insurance companies hire lobbiest to ensure that stricter regulation for drivers obtaining their lisense's don't make it to a vote. As he stated, safer drivers will cause the industry to lose money and they can't have that. I'd perfer that new drivers go through a stricter test to drive. Myself when I have a son/daughter they are going to learn from a young age how to drive and the dangers of it.

        I'm sure 90% of us on this blog will attest to seeing bad drivers doing wrong things, like not using turn signals, not stopping long enough at a stop sign and other things. Problem is that even police officers in their cruisers do the same damn thing. That and at times when the Police see others doing these things they do nothing.
        • 5 Years Ago
        LaHood doesn't had out licenses. States control driver licensing in the U.S.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Again autoblog provides a platform for politicians and calls it "news." If Ray LaHood has his way autoblog better grab the domain names "subsidizedtrainblog" and "publictransportblog."

      Next autoblog will be telling us how good speed cameras are.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The funny thing is I constantly see cops driving while texting and talking on cell phones.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is very true, and IMO is one of the reasons that cops in NJ rarely ever stop people for texting or handheld use while driving.

        If towns wanted to make money they would heavily enforce the law.
        People fight speeding tickets, causing court back ups, surcharges that goto the state not the town, overtime for cops in court, making them pretty much non profitable.
        But, nobody would fight texting or handheld phone tickets, making them a much greater value.

        • 5 Years Ago
        I think the solution would be to make sure the tickets only involve a fine, and no points on your license. IMO, that's why so many people go to court, to try to get the points dropped.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If the LaHood and his band a crooken G-Men were REALLY interested in preventing distracted driving, they'd drive legislation to ban the use of devices while driving across the entire US.

      But wait...let's have a summit...to prepare for a symposium...then strike a committee... and develop a federal policy...so that an education program can be proposed...blah blah blah...

      Yeah right....

      LaHood == NHTSA == USGov == FAIL!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        And you think this would pass against all the howls of states' rights?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Glad to see Autoblog closely working with the US Government to advocate important agendas.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I feel safer already. Might I add that it's also great to live in a country with so much surplus federal money that we can throw day long parties to discuss "the epidemic of distracted driving" without having to make value judgements based on a limited resource.
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