Chicago injury lawyers continue to monitor issue of distracted driving

A new federal report concerning the use of hand-held devices behind the wheel found a 25 to 50 percent increase in fatal accidents caused by distracted drivers over the last five years, even as the number of fatal traffic accidents has declined nationwide.

The Chicago car accident lawyers and the personal injury attorneys at Abels & Annes often represent clients who have been injured by distracted drivers.

In 2008, the federal government estimates 1 in every 6 fatal accidents was caused by a distracted driver — 5,870 people were killed and more than half a million injured.

A major push in the fight against distracted driving has been to ban the use of cell phones and text messaging by drivers. Earlier this month, Abels & Annes’ Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog reported President Obama announced a ban on text messaging by all federal employees.

This summer, Illinois passed a law that takes effect Jan. 1, making it illegal for drivers to text message and prohibiting the use of cell phones in school and construction zones.

“Every single time someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road – even for just a few seconds – they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and in a split second, its consequences can be devastating.”

On any given day in 2008, the federal government estimates more than 800,000 vehicles are driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.

Other driving behaviors that lead to distracted driving accidents include eating, drinking, talking to passengers, radios and the use of other in-car technologies and portable devices, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Researchers noted the actual number of serious and fatal accidents caused by distracted driving could be much higher because of the lack of uniform reporting and the challenges associated with identifying distracted driving as a cause of an accident.

But the report concluded instances of crashes caused by distracted driving are on the rise even as the overall traffic fatality rate has declined in recent years. In 2004, 4,409 of the 38,444 fatal crashes were attributed to distracted drivers (11 percent) while 2008 figures show 5,331 distracted-driving fatalities of the nation’s 34,017 fatal crashes (16 percent).

Those figures represent a 50 percent increase in the overall percentage of fatal distracted-driving accidents and an increase of roughly 25 percent in overall number of distracted driving accidents.

Among the other findings of the study:

-Distracted driving was reported as a cause in 16 percent of all fatal accidents.

-1 in 5 injury accidents was caused by a distracted driver.

-Drivers under age 20 has the greatest proportion of distracted drivers.

By Age Group

The study found instances of distracted driving tend to decrease with each decade of driver age, with drivers under 20 most at risk. However, a slight increase in distracted-driving fatalities is observed again for drivers nearing retirement age and for senior citizens.

Drivers under 20: 15 percent of distracted-driving fatalities 20 to 29: 12 percent of distracted-driving fatalities 30 to 39: 10 percent of distracted-driving fatalities 40 to 49: 10 percent of distracted-driving fatalities 50 to 59: 9 percent of distracted-driving fatalities 60 to 69: 10 percent of distracted-driving fatalities 70 and over: 11 percent of distracted-driving fatalities
While researchers note an across-the-board increase in hand-held devices used by drivers — including cell phones, iPods and GPS devices, the blame is most squarely placed on such devices when it comes to the young drivers who are most apt to use them.

“We now know that the worst offenders are the youngest, least experienced drivers,” said Secretary LaHood. “Unfortunately though, the problem doesn’t end there. Distracted driving occurs across all age groups and all modes of transportation, from cars to buses and trucks to trains. We must work together to find solutions that will prevent crashes caused by driver distraction.”

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured or killed in an accident, the Chicago personal injury lawyers and wrongful death attorneys at Abels & Annes offer free appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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