Distracted driving remains a leading cause of Chicago car accidents, traffic accidents nationwide

Despite the historic drop in traffic fatalities, distracted driving remains the third-leading cause of Chicago car accidents and traffic accidents nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The other day I was cut off in Chicago traffic while I was getting on to the highway by a woman who had a cell phone held up to her right ear and a cigarette in her left hand, so I definitely believe the statistic above is correct.

As we reported earlier this month on our Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Blog, the 33,808 motorists killed in car accidents last year were the fewest since 33,186 died in 1950. The number of serious and fatal accidents declined by about 10 percent. The decline in distracted driving accidents was only about 5 percent — from 6,000 to 5,474 — and distracted drivers still caused 16 percent of all fatal accidents, the same percentage reported in 2008.Only speeding and drunk driving are blamed for more fatal accidents each year. Most alarmingly, safety advocates believe the actual number is likely much higher because reporting standards for distracted driving remain poor, with few state routinely documenting driver distraction at accident scenes.

Authorities from throughout the nation are meeting this week in Washington, D.C. at the nation’s second annual Distracted Driving Summit.

“These numbers show that distracted driving remains an epidemic in America, and they are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Secretary Ray LaHood. “I’m convening our second Distracted Driving Summit in the hopes that we can continue to draw attention to the dangers of distracted driving and work together to save lives.”

Federal statistics indicate that the percentage of fatal accidents blamed on distracted driving has increased since 2005, from 10 percent to 16 percent. Safety advocates point to cell phone use, and particularly text messaging, as a significant contributor to the problem.

Meanwhile, LaHood has already used the conference to take automakers and cell phone makers to task for contributing to the risk of distracted driving, according to the Washington Post.

In opening remarks, the nation’s transportation chief went so far as to suggest that cell phones come with stickers warning of the dangers, just like cigarettes and alcohol. He also chided automakers for adding distracting technology to vehicles instead of working to make them safer.

“In recent days and weeks, we’ve seen news stories about carmakers adding technology in vehicles that lets drivers update Facebook, surf the Web or do any number of other things instead of driving safely,” he said. “Features that pull drivers’ hands, eyes and attention away from the road are distractions.”

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a Chicago area car accident, contact Abels & Annes for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There’s no attorneys’ fee unless we recover for you.

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