It’s bad enough that 31 percent of U.S. drivers admit they’ve texted while driving over the past 30 days and that more than two-thirds say they’ve talked on their cell phones over the same period of time.
It is worse that, despite public-awareness campaigns dedicated to eradicating distracted driving, the problem is growing more prevalent than ever.
Results of the aforementioned study, released this week by the Centers For Disease Control, are similar to a 2010 study conducted by the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety, which found 69 percent of drivers had used a cell phone while driving and 24 percent said they texted while driving in the past 30 days.
It’s notable that 24 percent of Americans admitted to texting while driving in 2010, and three short years later, the number has jumped to 31 percent. That’s a 22.6 percent increase in two short years.
Are American drivers just not … well … paying attention? Think they’re immune to an accident? Or do they just not care about the slaughter on the roads?
Distracted-driving traffic deaths are rising, even as the overall number of traffic fatalities is falling.
In 2010, 3,267 people died in distracted-driving-related deaths, according to the CDC study, which appeared in its weekly Mortality and Morbidity Report. In 2011, the most recent year for which numbers are available, the number rose to 3,331, a 1.92 percent increase.
By contrast, the number of overall traffic fatalities on U.S. roads fell from 32,885 in 2010 to 32,367 in 2011, a 1.5 percent decrease.
When it comes to looking at death numbers that are measured in the thousands, sometimes it’s regrettably easy to look at them as just statistics. So measure those distracted-driving deaths another way: The much-maligned Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which despite the fact its reputation has gone up in battery-induced flames, hasn’t actually killed anyone yet.
It holds anywhere from 210 to 290 passengers in its various configurations, so split the difference. With 250 passengers on board, for the sake of hypothetical example, the jumbo jet would need to crash more than 13 times and kill everyone aboard in a single year to equal the number of Americans killed each year in distracted-driving accidents.
“Accident” isn’t exactly the right word either. It’s not like drivers are being forced at gunpoint to use their phones while driving. Texting while driving is a conscious decision to drive in a reckless manner.
“The cellphone can be a fatal distraction for those who use it while they drive,” CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a written statement. “If you are driving, pull over to a safe place and stop before you use your cellphone.”
Simple advice that just might save a life.