Some 450,000 Americans got injured due to the actions of a distracted driver during 2009, and another 5,474 U.S. resident got killed in such accidents.
I'd go on, but instead, I'll point you to the source of these terrible statistics so you can read yourself the toll distracted driving takes on a daily basis. Distraction.gov, maintained by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, features a continuous stream of news about serious and deadly distracted driving accidents, summaries of state distracted driving laws and action plans for reducing distracted driving. The site also draws attention to the problems of "distracted operating" by train engineers and airline pilots.
A truly crushing feature of the website is a series of -- frankly -- too many videos of parents, brothers, sisters and friends telling the stories of loved ones who lost their lives in traffic accidents caused by drivers who were talking a cell phone, texting or doing something else besides keeping their eyes and minds on the road. Here is just one of the Faces of Distracted Driving tributes:
A Stats & Facts page on the NHTSA site also presents a partial list of actions that constitute distracted driving because doing them takes drivers' hands off the wheel, draws eyes and attention away from other vehicles and pedestrians, and makes it easy for drivers to miss or ignore stop signs and red lights. The list begins with the definition "Distracted driving is any nondriving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing." It consists of the following distracting actions:
- Using a cell phone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading maps and directions
- Using a PDA or navigation system
- Watching a video
- Changing the radio station, CD or MP3 player.
As a Virginia Beach, VA-based personal injury attorney who has represented many victims of crashes caused by other people who simply were not paying attention while they were driving, I know that every effort must be made to reduce distracted driving. I welcome Distraction.gov and the federal government's wider focus on all forms of distracted driving and operating.