How bad a problem has ‘distracted driving’ become? The U.S. Deptartment of Transportation now has a website dedicated exclusively to this very troubling national problem, which should tell us something.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in 2009 alone, nearly 5,500 fatalities and about half a million injuries resulted from crashes involving a distracted driver. Deaths due to distracted driving presented 16 percent of traffic fatalities in 2009, a rise from 10 percent in 2005.

Sadly, the “distraction” we introduce ourselves contributes to the death and destruction. Cell phones and other electronic devices are associated with up to 25% of all U.S. crashes.

Consider these facts from the DOT’s website on distracted driving:
• 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA)
• Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashed, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)
• In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (FARS and GES)
• The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. (NHTSA)
• Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
• Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)

Too many of us fail to understand that talking on a phone while driving creates a potentially lethal distraction… and you can see from the last bulleted item above that delaying your reaction time when you drive increases your chances of going to either a hospital or a morgue as a result.

If you’re concerned by what you read here please recognize the importance of leading by example. We cannot do a very good job of educating teen drivers on smart, safe driving habits if they see their parents making the wrong choices and driving inattentively themselves.

No matter the reason, when driving never use your phone to talk or text! Take your safety and that of fellow motorists seriously and perhaps that will help teen drivers establish safe driving habits for a lifetime.