According to a Chicago Sun-Times story of April 27, “A quarter of all car crashes involve cell phone use,” “According to the National Safety Council, a quarter of all car crashes involve cell phone use, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 9 percent of drivers are on their cell phones at any given moment.”
The article relates the story of Matt Wilhelm, who had recently (in September 2006) completed his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois, and was killed while riding his bike. A teenage girl veered off the road and struck him; she was downloading ring tones.
The parents of Matt Wilhelm were among those attending Thursday’s Illinois Distracted Driving Summit in Addison.
The Distracted Driving Summit brought together a range of different parties, including federal and state officials, legislators, driving behavior researchers, and law enforcement. The summit was held to raise awareness of the dangers of cell phone use while driving and to encourage increased legislative efforts.
“Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who attended the summit along with Illinois’ Secretary of State Jesse White, Senate President John Cullerton and State Rep. John D’Amico who has championed legislation. “No text message or phone call is worth a life.”
The Wilhelms’ advocacy since September 2006 has since resulted in Illinois’ Matt’s Law, banning texting while driving, as well as a law banning cell phone use by drivers in school and construction zones.
According to the NHTSA report “Distracted Driving 2009” (pdf), “In 2009, 867 fatal crashes were reported to have involved cell phones as distraction (18% of all fatal distracted-driving crashes). For these crashes, the police reported that the cell phone was either in use at the time of the crash or was in the presence of the driver at the time of the crash. Cell phones were reported as distraction for 20 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes. A total of 995 people died in fatal crashes that involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction.”