NHTSA Estimates 3,092 People Killed in 2010 Due to Distracted Driving
In a classic “good news, bad news” press release, U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces
Lowest Level Of Annual Traffic Fatalities In More Than Six Decade while still noting that an estimated 3,092 people were killed on 2010 due to distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) unveiled a new measure of fatalities related to distracted driving today, called “distraction-affected crashes.” Introduced for 2010 as part of a broader effort by the agency to refine its data collection to get better information about the role of distraction in crashes, the new measure is designed to focus more narrowly on crashes in which a driver was most likely to have been distracted. While NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) previously recorded a broad range of potential distractions, such as careless driving and cell phone present in the vehicle, the new measure focuses on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement, such as distraction by dialing a cellular phone or texting and distraction by an outside person/event. New data released by NHTSA using its refined methodology show an estimated 3,092 fatalities in distraction-affected crashes in 2010.
Commented NHTSA administrator: “Even as we celebrate the incredible gains we’’re making in reducing traffic fatalities, we recognize our responsibility to improve our understanding of the dangers that continue to threaten drivers and passengers. That’s why, under the leadership of Secretary LaHood, NHTSA is working to refine the way we collect data on distracted driving and laying the groundwork for additional research to capture real-world information on this risky behavior.”
While the explicit change in methodology means the new measure cannot be compared to the 5,474 “distraction-related” fatalities reported in 2009, other NHTSA data offers some indication that driver distraction continues to be a significant problem. The agency’s nationwide observational survey of drivers in traffic remains unchanged between 2009 and 2010, with 5 percent of drivers seen talking on handheld phones. In addition, given ongoing challenges in capturing the scope of the problem — including individuals’’ reluctance to admit behavior, lack of witnesses, and in some cases the death of the driver — NHTSA believes the actual number of crashes that involve distracted driving could be higher.