According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of traffic fatalities in 2009 dropped to the lowest level since 1950. The number of deaths attributed to distracted driving, however, rose from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has referred to distracted driving as an "epidemic." Though the numbers indicate a slight decline in the overall numbers of distracted driving deaths, nearly 5,500 people were killed and over 448,000 were injured in distracted driving accidents during 2009. Secretary LaHood warns that the numbers do not indicate the full extent of the problem, as many state and local agencies fail to note if distraction was a factor in all accidents.
As a result, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), in a study funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), examined behaviors that contributed to commercial truck and bus drivers being distracted behind the wheel. The study reviewed 1,085 crashes, 8,375 near crashes and over 30,000 crash-relevant conflicts involving over 13,000 commercial drivers.
Overall, the data notes that commercial drivers who text, email or use the Internet while driving are very likely to be involved in an accident. In fact, in 90 of the 93 instances where the driver was using a mobile device resulted in a safety critical event. But the study also found that use of a phone was not the most significant safety issue. While talking on the phone did not present an increased risk of an accident, the driver "must take several risk-increasing steps in order to use the electronic device for conversation." In other words, acts like reaching for or dialing the phone were the activities that were the primary causes of safety-related incidents.
A previous study conducted by VTTI found that truck drivers who texted behind the wheel were 23 times as likely to be involved in an accident. That study, also commissioned by the FMCSA, found that drivers typically took their eyes off the road for over five seconds when engaging in texting behaviors. At typical highway speeds, that distraction time equals over a football field in length according to a New York Times review of the report.
If you have been involved in a trucking or motor vehicle crash, you face serious and life-changing injuries. After an accident, it is important to discuss your options with an experienced personal injury attorney.