As if people don't have enough to worry about on a typical commute, a study released by the NHTSA has concluded that distracted driving deaths are at an epidemic level. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributes one in every six highway deaths to distracted driving, a 16% increase from five years ago.
ABC News quotes Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:
"People need to take personal responsibility for the fact that they're driving a three or four thousand pound car. If you're looking down at your cell phone for four seconds or texting device for four seconds, you're driving the length of a football field without looking at the road. It's very concerning and it's concerning to the extent that most young people think they're invincible. You need to put the cell phone and the Blackberry in the glove compartment right after you buckle up."
There is also a generational trend within the figures--those drivers under the age of twenty were most likely to be texting while driving than any other age range, and the over thirty crowd was most likely to be talking on a cell phone. Whatever mode a driving distraction assumes, the end result is never good.
No news to celebrate, the sad truth of the report is that the shocking figures actually represent a 6% decline from the previous year. Last year, there were 5,474 fatal distracted driving crashes, and more than 448,000 injures nationwide attributed to a driver not paying attention to the road. States have taken differing approaches to the problem, many banning talking while driving, and also issuing citations for those drivers found to be texting behind the wheel. LaHood suggests that increased enforcement may be the key to combating the growing concern over distracted driving. It also helps that Oprah is very vocal on her stance against any form of talking or texting while driving.