Distracted Driving is Huge Threat to Auto Safety

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of highway fatalities caused by distracted driving – particularly texting – is on the rise. The NHTSA said that “because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.”

Nearly 5,500 Americans were killed in accidents caused by driver distractions in 2009, and about 448,000 were also injured. What is especially tragic about this very large loss of life is that most of the deaths are easily preventable. In other words, it is very easy to choose not to text and drive at the same time, nor eat and drive simultaneously.

It is likely the high number of distracted driver accidents result from a number of factors, but the growing popularity of texting is a main contributor. According to NHTSA, 196 billion text messages were transmitted or received in the United States just in the month of June 2011. Younger people, including teens, are active texters.

Teen drivers are also the most likely age group to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is a significant factor. A Pew research study found forty percent of American teens surveyed said they had ridden in a car driven by someone using a cell phone at the same time, and that cell phone use was dangerous.

Sending or reading a text message can take up about 4.6 seconds of time for a driver. In this very short period, a vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hour would cross the entire length of a football field. The vehicle would travel one hundred yards, with a driver who was paying no attention to what was in front of it. A Carnegie Mellon study found cell phone use while driving reduces brain activity for driving by 37%.

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