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NHTSA: 660,000 Distracted Drivers on Roads at All Times

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April 12, 2013—Despite warnings about the dangers of distracted driving, and even bans in several U.S. states, roughly 660,000 American drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices on roadways at any given moment, according to a recent study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Data in the NHTSA’s study includes statistics from the 2012 Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors Survey, the 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey on Driver Electronics Use, and the 2011 Distraction Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

According to the study, 74 percent of American drivers support bans on hand-held cell phone use, and 94 percent support bans on texting while driving. The NHTSA said most drivers believe the fines for such offenses should be at least $200.

However, nearly 50 percent of drivers said they answer incoming phone calls while driving, and 24 percent of drivers are willing to place a call. With about 212 million licensed drivers in the country, the NHTSA estimates that 102 million drivers are answering phone calls and 50 million drivers are placing calls while driving.

"Many drivers see distracted driving as risky when other drivers do it, but do not recognize how their own driving deteriorates," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "I urge all motorists to use common sense and keep their attention focused solely on the task of safely driving."

According to the NHTSA, more than 3,300 people were killed in 2011 and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.

"Distracted driving is a serious and deadly epidemic on America's roadways," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Powering down your cell phone when you're behind the wheel can save lives—maybe even your own."

So far, 39 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands have banned text messaging for all drivers. In addition, 10 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.

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