Drunk driving and not wearing seat belts have long been contributing factors to deadly car crashes, but now highway officials say driver distractions are more dangerous than ever. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 43,200 people died in car crashes last year, up from 42,636 in 2004-- the first highway death rate increase in 20 years. Colorado State Patrol Sergeant John Lupton says, increased use of cell phones, PDAs and CD players has contributed to reckless driving-- something he says causes crashes, not accidents.
"An accident is something that you couldn't have prevented, that you have no control over," said Lupton. "In the state of Colorado, reckless driving is the willful disregard for the safety of others."
Even "safe" distractions can be dangerous. According to the NHTSA, just talking on a cell phone while driving-- even with the help of a hands-free device-- causes nearly the same number of car crashes as looking down to dial a phone number.
Luptin offers 2 tips all drivers should heed while behind the wheel: Follow the speed limit and keep an appropriate driving distance from other cars-- both he says, difficult to do while distracted.