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NHTSA Sees No Decline in Distracted Driving

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported startling statistics it hopes will encourage people to pay attention while driving. In 2011, licensed motorists in the U.S. numbered 212 million while the number answering calls on a mobile device was 102 million, and the number making calls was 50 million. At any given daylight moment that year, 660,000 drivers were using phones or other electronic devices while driving.

Since April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, NHTSA is publicizing the results of three separate studies: the 2012 Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors Survey, the 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey on Driver Electronics Use and the 2011 Distraction Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The results of each show that “Americans continue to use electronic devices while driving, despite warnings that it causes their own driving to deteriorate and can lead to crashes, injuries and even death,” NHTSA said in a statement.

According to NHTSA data, more than 3,300 people were killed in 2011 and nearly a dozen times that many were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver, according to NHTSA. Still, nearly half of surveyed drivers said they answer an incoming call, while 25% are willing to place a call. The number willing to make a call while driving declined from 2010 to 2011, but the number willing to answer one held steady.

Ironically, nearly three-quarters of surveyed drivers support bans on drivers using hand-held devices, and 94% support bans on text messaging; respondents generally supported a minimum $200 fine for related offenses. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia already prohibit text messaging for drivers, while 10 states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers using hand-held phones.

To prevent distracted driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends:

  • Turning off electronic devices and putting them out of reach.
  • Setting a good example for young drivers and talking to teens about responsible driving.
  • Speaking up when you are a passenger and the driver uses an electronic device or offering to make a call for the driver.
  • Always wearing your seat belt.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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