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Virginia Distracted Driving Summit posts important question, gives frightening answers

The Chairperson of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Deborah Hersman, says that the United States can reduce the number of highway deaths to zero and it starts with the end of distracted driving. "It can be done. All of these crashes are avoidable," claimed Hersman at the Virginia Distracted Driving Summit on September 19th.

It is estimated that over 34,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents last year. This is a 5.3% increase compared to 2011 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Hersman told all those present at the symposium that, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), 775 were killed and over 67,000 were injured in Virginia alone in 2012. In addition, the National Safety Council (NSC) says that the cost of motor vehicle accidents, just in Virginia, in 2011 was $3.3 billion and that they're projecting it to get worse and worse every year.

As technological advances continue to be invented to keep us safer in our vehicles, therein lies the anomaly: technological advances. Most fatal accidents in the United States aren't a result of a car's or truck's malfunctions, but that of senseless human mistakes and the poor decisions we make, like texting, when we are driving. Comparatively, flying commercially–an activity feared by millions in this country–last year was literally 100% safer than driving. In 2012, airlines flew over 9 million flights, carrying over 640 million passengers, and not one person died.

The NTSB says that the two main problems that must be addressed and readdressed are drinking and driving, and distracted driving. Officials from the NTSB say that every hour, one person is killed and 20 people are injured in the United States in accidents involving drunk drivers. That's almost 10,000 deaths and over 173,000 injuries every year. However, experts are now beginning to see an even worse trend when people text or email and drive. A study done at Virginia Tech University shows that around 80% of all accidents happen as a result of some form of distracted driving and that texting doubled the risk of an accident.

While the NTSB's call for a national ban on all non-emergency use of mobile devices will not likely be passed, states must all get on board with the impactful trend of targeting drivers who are distracting themselves with cell phones, lap tops, and smart pads. The simple act of making a phone call–finding your phone, locating the correct contact, deciding which of their three numbers to call, and looking to check your connection–can actually triple the risk of drivers getting into a deadly accident. Like drunk driving, texting-while-driving crashes should no longer be considered an "accident." By making the conscious decision to stare at your phone, rather than watch the road, people are engaging in what many safety officials are calling "murderous" behavior.

Source: TimesDispatch.com. "Zero highway deaths, NTSB chairman urges at Virginia Distracted Driving Summit in Henrico" 20 September 2013

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