December 14 2011 by Chris McGinnis
According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), roadway fatalities and injuries fell to their lowest rates...ever... in 2010. The record-breaking decline occurred even as Americans drove nearly 3 trillion miles last year.
NHTSA says that the improvement is a result of three key factors:
>Cars are safer as crash avoidance and crash worthiness of cars continues to improve.
>Roads are safer, with better intersections, signs, lighting, paving and more effective crash barriers.
>Drivers are doing their part, too, by buckling up their seat belts at record rates, and refraining from drinking and driving.
Nonetheless, nearly 33,000 people were killed on America's roads last year, so the government still has plenty of work to do to improve roadway safety--and one area it's focusing on is distracted driving. "I've been on a rampage to end distracted driving on our roadways, but America's distracted driving epidemic has not gone away," says US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
As a result, NHTSA has unveiled a more accurate way to gauge crashes related to distracted driving--it is now calling these "distraction-affected crashes" which the agency says claimed 3,092 lives last year. What are the distractions most likely to result in crashes? Dialing cell phones or sending text messages when behind the wheel.
In a recent survey, the DOT found that more than 75% of drivers admit they answer phone calls on all, some or most car trips. They also said that there were few driving or traffic situations that would prevent them from using their phones. The DOT says that this type of behavior poses a threat to all drivers.
Some interesting stats about cell phone and texting laws frequent drivers should know (from the Governor's Highway Safety Association):
>Handheld Cell Phones: Nine states, Washington DC and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Except for Maryland, all laws are primary enforcement--an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place
>Text Messaging: 35 states, D.C. and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers. 32 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam have primary enforcement; the others, secondary.
The National Transportation Safety Board Tuesday called for a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving.
The recommendation is the most far-reaching yet by the NTSB, which in the past 10 years has increasingly sought to limit the use of portable electronic devices.
If adopted by states, the recommendation would outlaw nonemergency phone calls and texting by operators of every vehicle on the road.
It would not apply to hands-free devices, or to passengers.