Distracted drivers caused 6 percent fewer deaths in 2009 than in 2008, according to a Department of Transportation report released Monday. Although the numbers were encouraging, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood added, "These numbers show that distracted driving remains an epidemic in America, and they are just the tip of the iceberg." He was referring to the fact that many police reports do not note whether distracted driving was a factor in fatal traffic accidents.
Miami auto accident attorneys noted that the report said 5,474 people were killed (in 4,898 crashes) because of distracted driving last year, down from 5,838 deaths (in 5,307 crashes) in 2008.
Distracted driving was a contributing factor in 16 percent of crashes and deaths in both years.
The report cited distractions in 16 percent of fatal crashes involving drivers under the age of 20, more than in any other age group. However, drivers aged 30 to 39 were most likely to be involved in a fatal crash while distracted by a mobile phone.
Cell phones were cited as a distraction that led to 995 deaths and 24,000 injuries in auto accidents.
Secretary LaHood wrote, "We're hooked on our devices and we can't put them down, even when it means jeopardizing our own safety and the safety of others. And we have young people texting habitually long before they learn to drive who then can't even imagine turning off their devices when they climb behind the wheel."
There are 8 states that ban hand-held phone use while driving. There are 30 states that have banned texting while driving.
Source: New York Times "Fewer Deaths From Distracted Driving Reported in '09" 9/21/2010