The government reports that 5,870 people were killed and 515,000 were injured last year in crashes where at least one form of driver distraction was reported. Driver distraction was involved in 16 percent of all fatal crashes in 2008 and was prevalent among young drivers.
Americans are getting fed up with people driving while distracted (DWD). Nationwide's latest survey found that 80 percent of Americans favor a ban on texting while driving, and more than half say they would support a ban on cell phone use altogether while driving.
"In recent months, the debate about the dangers of DWD has intensified as more and more states consider taking legislative action," said Bill Windsor, Nationwide's Safety Officer. "The survey results confirm that there is strong public support for banning texting while driving."
Instead of waiting for the federal and state governments to make these behaviors illegal, Nationwide is working toward technological solutions that address the peer pressure that drivers get from friends and family to stay connected. About two-thirds of respondents to a recent Nationwide poll said they feel pressure to answer calls when on the road.
These solutions involve software installed on a phone or Blackberry that recognizes when you're driving and blocks incoming calls and texts, using an auto-reply message to let your friends know that you're driving. Nationwide even plans to offer insurance discounts to drivers who use these devices once they become available.
"Teens have this two-minute rule -- somebody sends a text message, and if you don't get back within two minutes, the other person feels you're mad at them, or something's wrong," Windsor said. "We think this technology will fill that gap."
In addition to saving lives, fewer DWD-related crashes could also result in lower insurance costs for consumers.
"DWD impacts all of us in one form or another, and Nationwide will continue to raise public awareness about this important issue," said Windsor. "By working closely with legislators, public safety officials and other key stakeholders, we can arrive at real-world solutions to this problem and help make the roads a safer place."