With Illinois considering a statewide ban on the use of handheld cell phones by drivers, the measures already enacted by individual communities are drawing attention. Three years ago, the Evanston City Council passed a handheld device ban in an effort to curb distracted driving accidents. Cell phones are considered a primary culprit in the nationwide increase in distracted driving fatalities. Texting while driving has garnered much of the attention, but any diversion of a driver's attention from the road is a safety hazard. With three year's worth of data available, it appears that Evanston's ban may have been successful.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving caused more than 11,000 fatalities from 2000 to 2010. Unlike car accidents caused by drunk drivers, drowsy driving accidents can be difficult to identify and punish. How tired is too tired to drive? Unless a driver admits to falling asleep behind the wheel, how can authorities prove that is what caused an accident? Many people who would never consider driving drunk may feel free to drive through exhaustion. The results can be devastating.
At present, every state in the nation counts a blood alcohol rate above .08 as illegally impaired. Some states have additional laws with a zero alcohol tolerance level for underage drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the year 2000 saw an estimated 69,400 crashes caused by drivers with blood alcohol levels above 0, but below .08. In that year, alcohol related crashes claimed an estimated 16,792 lives and led to 513,000 injuries.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2,700 teens are killed each year in car accidents where a teen driver was under the influence of alcohol. In addition, an estimated 282,000 injuries are suffered in such accidents. According to recent research, that makes drinking and driving the second most deadly behavior among teen drivers. A study conducted by researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park suggested that teen deaths caused by texting drivers total more than 3,000. It estimated that 300,000 injuries result from this form of distracted driving.
The National Transportation Safety Board has issued new recommendations regarding the use of personal electronic devices. The new guidelines were, in part, the result of the NTSB investigation into the August 2011 crash of Eurocopter AS350 B2 in Missouri. That crash claimed four lives. The NTSB issued nine new recommendations, including seven sent to the Federal Aviation Administration and two more sent to Air Methods, the company operating the crashed medical helicopter. The crash was the first aviation accident in which text messaging by the pilot was cited as a factor contributing to the accident.
The Federal Aviation Administration lists the reduction of runway incursions among its top priorities. The FAA defines a runway incursion as an "unauthorized presence on a runway, regardless of whether or not an aircraft, vehicle or pedestrian presents a potential conflict to an aircraft authorized to land, take off, or taxi on a runway." Runway incursions range from two planes colliding while taxiing, taking off or landing, to lesser incidents where a vehicle, person or object is in an area where it should not be but is removed before any safety consequences arise.