The Obama administration is poised to take a harder stance against distracted driving, according to Transportation Department officials. According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, distracted driving has resulted in close to 6,000 fatalities last year and at least half a million injuries. A large majority of those incidents were caused by drivers using their cell phones.
Officials called on the Congress and the public to find ways to reduce the risk distracted driving has on the nation. Even representatives from the auto insurance industries joined in on the issue, adding that most accidents are caused by drivers losing their concentration and focus while behind the wheel. Consequently, insurance premiums have risen significantly for motorists who get themselves in trouble because of distracted driving.
The Department of Transportation released data that point to an alarming number of incidents involving distracted driving. The same data also points out that last year alone, 5,870 people died as a result of car crashes where driver distraction was reported. Some 515,000 people also suffered physical injuries during the same period. Federal government officials also added that driver distraction caused 16 percent of all car accident fatalities in 2008. Experts say that the loss of concentration is prevalent among younger motorists.
During the opening of a two-day meeting sponsored by the Transportation Department, Secretary LaHood called distracted driving a “menace to society.” The secretary opened the summit that would find ways to reduce the use of mobile devices like cell phones, believed to be responsible for many car crashes. LaHood also tagged driver distraction as a worsening “epidemic.”
According to experts, the insurance industry is watching the issue closely, hoping for some sort of legislation that would effectively reduce the incidence of distracted driving. Members of the Congress are also calling for new laws that would prohibit the use of cell phones and other similar devices while driving. The legislation would require state governments to enact provisions to limit the risk of driver distraction. Failure to comply would mean losing 25 percent of their federal highway funding annually.
Insurance experts point out that one way to reduce the risk of driver distraction would be the introduction of new technologies that would virtually eliminate the use of hand-held devices. Even so, safety experts point out that hands-free is not necessarily risk-free. Others simply say that a total cell phone ban is needed to completely address the issue.