New statistics for 2009 show distracted driving car accidents an ongoing danger in North Carolina and elsewhere

While the number of distracted driving car accidents declined last year, amid a nationwide reduction in serious and fatal car accidents, the federal government still blames distracted driving for more than 5,400 deaths and nearly half a million injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Our North Carolina car accident lawyers frequently report on the dangers of distracted driving, including text messaging and cell phone use behind the wheel. Now, a new report by the government shows that distracted driving was responsible for 16 percent of all fatal car accidents in 2009.

A total of 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 were injured in accidents caused by distracted driving. Only drunk driving and speeding were blamed for more deaths on the nation’s roads. As the nation’s second-annual Distracted Driving Summit was held in Washington last week, the numbers prompted U.S. Transportation Secretary to label the issue an “epidemic in America.”

“These numbers show that distracted driving remains an epidemic in America, and they are just the tip of the iceberg,” said LaHood.

Part of the challenge is that many states do not routinely report whether distraction contributed to an accident. Thus, safety advocates believe the real number of serious and fatal accidents caused by distracted driving could be much higher.

Another issue is the patchwork of laws enacted by states. Some 30 states currently outlaw text messaging while driving — North Carolina does, South Carolina does not — leading to driver confusion.

Meanwhile, the percentage of traffic fatalities associated with distracted driving is on the rise, increasing from 10 percent to 16 percent during the last five years.

Studies show that young drivers are at particularly high risk with 16 percent of drivers under the age of 20 admitting to driving distracted.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, contact the Carolina injury lawyers at Lee & Smith today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 800-887-1965.

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