Cell phones not the only cause of distracted driving car accidents in South Florida

The nationwide campaign against text messaging and the use of cell phones while driving omits many forms of distracted driving that are just as dangerous, USA Today reported.

Car accidents in Boca Raton and Cape Coral are frequently caused by some form of distracted driving, but not necessarily text messaging or cell phone use. Eating, drinking, using in-car electronics, grooming, applying makeup, talking to passengers, riding with pets in the vehicle and looking at external distractions are all common causes of serious and fatal car accidents in South Florida.

“I don’t think we’ve made nearly as much progress in those other areas of distracted driving,” says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been recently critical of the government’s focus on distracted driving and text messaging, which the organization contends comes at the expense of highlighting other safety issues. “They’re focusing on a single manifestation of distracted driving and banning it,” said Adrian Lund, the organization’s president. “This ignores the endless sources of distraction and relies on banning one source or another to solve the whole problem.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported last month that 5,474 fatalities and 448,000 injuries were caused by distracted driving last year. The USA Today reports that the NHTSA blames just 18 percent of the fatalities and 5 percent of the injuries on cell phone use.

However, the Chicago Tribune recently reported that researchers from the University of North Texas recently found that texting behind the wheel accounted for 16,141 deaths between 2002 and 2007. And that, without text messaging, there would have been 1,925 deaths a year due to distracted driving in 2007. Instead, there were 5,988.

Part of the challenge is many state and local law enforcement agencies do not track distracted driving as a cause of accidents at the scene and there is no standard for nationwide reporting.