NHTSA releases new report on distracted driving

The commute in Seattle can be long and frustrating, and as the weather gets colder the traffic will only get worse. It can be tempting to make a call, send a text, write an email or even just finish your morning routine with some mascara or a cup of coffee. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just released a report about distracted driving that proves these actions to be not just dangerous — they are potentially fatal.

Fifty percent of respondents to the NHTSA survey reported answering incoming phone calls on all or most of their driving trips. And the younger you are, the more likely you are to answer the phone. About 85% percent of drivers aged 21-24 reported that they would answer the phone while driving. Sixty-one percent of drivers under the age of 24 reported that they felt talking on the phone made no difference in their driving whatsoever. Unfortunately, the statistics don’t stop there.

The bad news: 3,092 people were killed in distraction-related car accidents in 2010. The NHTSA conducted this specific survey in order to better understand the cause of vehicle accidents. Accidents related to drunk driving dropped by almost five percent, and the number of overall auto accident deaths is the lowest it’s been since 1949. However as technology becomes more accessible for drivers, it is a growing concern of the NHTSA that those drivers remain focused on the road.

It’s not difficult to see how dangerous texting and driving is when you are honking behind a teenager texting at a stoplight. In fact, the vast majority of respondents said that the activity of texting while driving is very unsafe. Compare that to the 24% of drivers who stated that texting while driving made no difference and the  31% who said they merely drove a little slower, and it’s obvious that drivers need to take a look in that rearview mirror to find out where the dangerous distracted driver is.

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the NHTSA have worked hard to make the roads safer for everyone, with decreases in both general auto accident deaths and drunk driving accidents. Their work is far from done, though most people would agree that a hefty ticket is a good enough reason to wait to answer that text or play your move on Words With Friends.

The fact that younger drivers are more likely to use not only their phones but other electronics such as mp3 players while they are driving could be the beginning of a disturbing trend. This is why organizations like Teens Against Drunk Driving (TADD) are so important. It is our duty to make everyone, especially young drivers, aware of the dangers of being distracted when you are on the road. So pledge not to text and drive, share an article with a friend , and most of all: when you are on the road, stay off the phone!

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