April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to raise awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving and to encourage drivers to not talk on cell phones or text while driving.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows the proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. 20 percent of injury crashes nationally in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. The NHTSA points out that cell phone and texting aren’t the only causes of distracted driving accidents. Activities such as reaching for something inside the vehicle, changing a radio station, talking to a passenger, eating or even drinking is considered distracted driving and can be dangerous.
In 2009, 5,474 people were killed and an estimated 448,000 were injured due to distracted driving. Of those distraction-related crashes, cell phone use could be directly attributed to 995 fatalities and could be blamed for 24,000 injuries.
Studies show that Drivers using hand-held devices are four times as likely to get seriously injured in crashes. This rate increases with younger less experienced drivers. Studies have shown that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reaction time just as seriously as a legally drunk driver. Also, “hands-free” cell phones do not eliminate cognitive distraction and that cognitively distracted drivers can miss up to 50 percent of their driving environment.
The California Highway Patrol said during last year’s April 2011 campaign there were over 52,000 citations issued statewide. There were 13,321 citations issued in Orange County for drivers using non-hands free cell phones and drivers under the age of 18 using any type of cell phone. There were 730 citations issued for texting while driving by the California Highway Patrol in April 2011.