DOT chief Ray LaHood opened the second Distracted Driving Summit with the news that the roadway “epidemic” continues: “We have so much to discuss today because, last year, distraction-related crashes killed at least 5,500 people and injured more than 450,000 others.”
He said deaths associated with distracted driving accounted for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities last year, warning that the toll could be “the tip of the iceberg,” due to inconsistent reporting.
The DOT reported that 448,000 people were injured in accidents related to distracted driving. That’s just a bit lower than the 466,000 people injured in 2008. Twenty percent of injury crashes involved reports of distracted driving.
LaHood used his blog to emphasize the human side of the stats: “We are not talking about numbers, but about lives being broken and people being killed in crashes that are 100 percent preventable.”
Drivers under the age of 20 reportedly were distracted in 16 percent of the fatal accidents. But when cell phones are the chief cause of distraction, the 30-39 age group had the highest involvement with fatalities. Almost 1,000 of the fatalities were linked to cell phone use.
Of cell phones, LaHood told the Summit: “Everyone has a cell phone and everyone think they can use it while driving.” He called drivers’ use of cell phones the most dangerous of distracted driving behaviors.
Read the DOT report on distracted driving statistics from 2009.