From Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers, the risk of distracted driving car accidents continues to rise

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 5,474 motorists were killed and 448,000 were injured in distracted driving accidents on the nation’s roads last year.

Our West Palm Beach car accident lawyers continue to report on the dangers of distracted driving, especially text messaging or the use of hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association reports that Florida is one of just 12 states that does not yet have a law banning drivers from text messaging.

Only drunk driving and speed are blamed for more traffic deaths. The government reports that distracted driving car accidents are now responsible for 16 percent — or about 1 in every 6 of the nation’s fatal crashes. “These numbers show that distracted driving remains an epidemic in America, and they are just the tip of the iceberg,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Authorities fear the problem is likely much worse because many states do not have adequate measures in place to track distraction as a cause of accidents during reporting at the scene.

And, while we reported recently on our South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog that the overall number of traffic accidents had declined nationwide to a level not seen since 1950, the number of serious and fatal crashes blamed on distracted driving continues to rise.

Other findings included:

– 24,000 accidents reported the involvement of a cell phone last year.

– 16 percent of all fatal crashes involved distracted driving.

-20 percent of all injury crashes involved fatal accidents.

-Drivers under 20 had the greatest proportion of distracted driving accidents.

– Drivers ages 30 to 39 were most likely to be using a cell phone when involved in a fatal accident.

In the last five years, the number of fatal accidents nationwide has declined, from 43,510 in 2005 to 33,808 last year, even as the number of fatal crashes blamed on distracted driving has increased by nearly 25 percent, from 4,472 in 2005 to 5,474 in 2009.