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Report Says Distracted Driving Deaths are On Rise; Encourages Tougher Laws

using smartphone and not holding steering wheelAccording to a new report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), deaths from car accidents involving distracted driving have increased. The report also encourages states to pass tougher distracted driving laws to help prevent this behavior and punish offenders.

The report, titled Using Electronic Devices While Driving: Legislation and Enforcement Implications, says there was a 10 percent increase in deaths from distracted driving crashes in 2019 compared to the previous year. In 2019, 3,142 people died in these crashes and 2,841 people died in these crashes in 2018.

However, it is important to note the authorities are not always able to confirm crash victims were engaged in distracted driving. That means the total number of distracted driving crashes and deaths could be much higher than the official tally.

While there are many forms of distracted driving, texting and driving is by far the most common form. Every text you send greatly increases your odds of being involved in an accident. Crash rates go up by 8.3 percent with every text sent, while severe crash rates increase by 6.5 percent for every text sent per hour.

The report cites a common statistic that illustrates the risk of distracted driving. When you read or send a text, you generally look away for about five seconds. When you do that, and your car is traveling at least 55 miles per hour, you travel the length of a football field.

Unfortunately, the report found drivers send approximately 1.6 texts every hour while driving. The rate of text messages sent decreases as the age of the driver increases.

Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 send about 2.9 texts each hour they drive. Drivers between the ages of 20 and 29 send about 2.6 texts for each hour they drive.

Even though there are laws in every state meant to prevent distracted driving, the strictness of these laws varies greatly. That is why the report is lobbying for much stricter laws and more intense outreach efforts to discourage distracted driving.

The report says the most effective laws and outreach efforts have four parts:

  • Clear language
  • Penalties and fines that are like the penalties and fines for other violations of traffic laws
  • Efforts to build coalitions in states to discourage distracted driving
  • High-visibility enforcement efforts and outreach campaigns targeted at the at-risk populations

The researchers involved in this report have created a variety of resources to help states. This includes model legislation, public safety campaign ideas and presentations to help police officers

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