Monday, December 10, 2012

Deaths from distracted driving accidents increased 2 percent in 2011

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 3:37 PM

It's no secret that Florida, and in particular the Tampa Bay area, possess some of the most dangerous roads and streets in the country when it comes to cyclists and pedestrians.

A report released last month by Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows bicyclist deaths in Florida increased 58 percent from 2010 to 2011 — from 76 in 2010 to 120 last year.

Late last month, Madeira Beach bicyclist David M. Pimentel, 37, was hit and killed by a man driving a van, marking Pinellas County's eighth cyclist traffic fatality this year.

Meanwhile the federal government released a a new report stating the number of deaths occurring on Tampa Bay Area highways in 2011, and the numbers are better than in 2010.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report states that highway deaths fell to 32,367 in 2011, marking the lowest level since 1949 and a 1.9 percent decrease from the previous year.

"The latest numbers show how the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners, coupled with significant advances in technology and continued public education, can really make a difference on our roadways," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to build on this progress by continuing to tackle head-on issues like seat belt use, drunk driving, and driver distraction."

In Florida there were 2,398 traffic deaths in 2011, a 1.9 percent improvement from 2010, when there were 2,444. The country also had 1.9 percent fewer fatalities on the road.

The national report shows that alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities declined by 2.5 percent in 2011. The accidents account for 31 percent of overall fatalities.

As far as injuries and deaths resulting from distracted driving (the subject of a recent CL cover story), the report states:

Fatalities in distraction-affected crashes increased by 1.9 percent (3,267 fatalities in 2010 to 3,331 fatalities in 2011). The number of people injured in distraction- affected crashes declined by 7 percent (416,000 injured people in 2010 to 387,000 injured people in 2011).

Last week, Sarasota House Republican Doug Holder filed his anti-texting while driving bill, which would make it a secondary offense to be caught texting while driving. This means a driver can receive a citation only after being pulled over for a primary offense such as speeding or reckless driving. Holder told The Tampa Tribune he doesn't believe there should be any opposition to his legislation. If there's no opposition, that would be the first time, as a number of previously filed bills on distracted driving have gone nowhere.

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