In a report released on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that about 9 people are killed and over 1,000 are injured every day due to distracted driving United States.
“Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating,” the CDC said in a statement. “Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.”
The report found that over 3,300 people were killed and over 390,000 people were injured in car crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011 – both were similar to statistics reported for 2010. In 2010, 18 percent of injury-causing car crashes involved distracted driving.
The CDC researchers compared distracted driving statistics to those for seven European countries and found that American drivers between the ages of 18 and 64 reported having used their cellphones behind the wheel much more than their European counterparts.
In the US, 69 percent said they had used their phones, while average use in Europe ranged from 21 percent in Britain to 59 percent in Portugal. Almost one-in-three Americans said they had read or sent emails or texts while driving compared to 15 percent who reported doing so in Spain and 31 percent in Portugal.
“Texting while driving is linked with drinking and driving or riding with someone who has been drinking among high school students in the United States,” the CDC said, citing a previous study the federal agency had conducted. “Students who text while driving are nearly twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking and five times as likely to drink and drive than students who don’t text while driving.”
The report also noted that government on both the state and federal level is beginning to step up laws designed to curb the habits of distracted drivers.
“Many states are enacting laws—such as banning texting while driving, or using graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers—to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to keep it from occurring,” the CDC said. “However, the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws on decreasing distracted driving-related crashes requires further study.”
The report also cited two federal actions regarding distracted driving: a September 2009 executive order from President Barack Obama prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving on government business or with government equipment and a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ban that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.
A PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll released last week showed that despite a general understanding of distracted driving laws, drivers still break them. In Washington and the Portland, Ore., metro area, about half of those surveyed under age 35 say they occasionally text behind the wheel. About one-fifth of drivers under age 35 admit to talking on a hand-held phone at least sometimes while driving.
Some drivers in the poll said they attempt to evade law enforcement by trying to hide their cell-phone use.