Motorists may be at increased risk of Chicago car accidents caused by distracted driving

While the number of fatal car accidents continues to decline, you may be at increased risk of a Chicago car accident caused by distracted driving, according to a new report by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.

Through July 13, a total of 431 traffic fatalities have been reported in Illinois, 50 fewer than the 481 reported during the same period of 2009, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. And, as we reported on our Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog in January, the 928 Illinois traffic fatalities recorded in 2009 were the fewest in a century of reporting.But the new report by the Governor’s Association highlights the increase in accidents blamed on distracted driving. The total number of traffic fatalities has declined nationwide, from 42,836 in 2004 to 37,261 in 2008. However, the number of fatal accidents blamed on distracted driving has increased by about 25 percent, from 4,978 in 2004 to 5,870 in 2008.

“Distracted driving is an emerging problem but a significant highway safety issue,” said Vernon F. Betkey Jr., chairman of the Governor’s Association. “Certainly most of the attention has been on texting and driving but there are a host of other distractions including cell phone calls (both handheld and hands-free) as well as more traditional ones such as eating, adjusting the radio, using the CD player or talking to passengers. Drivers need to be reminded to manage these distractions safely.”

Among the studies findings:

-The advent of Blackberry’s, Smart Phones, GPS devices and electronic notebooks has led to more potential driver distractions than ever before and such devices continue to be invented at a pace difficult to match by lawmakers and safety advocates.

-The number of drivers using cell phones at any given point has increased by 50 percent in the last six years (from 1 in 25 to 3 in 50).

-Only 34 states collect specific information on cell phone use at crash sites.

-About half of states do not provide information on distracted driving to teenagers.

-28 states (including Illinois) now ban text messaging by drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 6,000 motorists are killed each year and more than 500,000 are injured in accidents caused by distracted driving. The Governor’s Association notes the actual number is probably much higher because of the lack of mandated data collection regarding distracted driving.

“We need to develop a traffic safety culture that does not condone driving while distracted much like we have done with drunk driving,” Betkey said.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, the Chicago car accident attorneys at Abels & Annes offer free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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