dave-mittlemanTransportation Secretary Ray LaHood refers to distracted driving as an “epidemic”. I’ve written extensively on the issue, and Secretary LaHood and I don’t seem to be the only ones worried about the seriousness of distracted driving. In fact, Toyota recently pledged to spend $50 million on research to prevent distracted driving and state legislators are racing to pass legislation banning cellphone use on the roads, the main culprit of distracted driving.

Yet the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is refuting the concerns, arguing that there isn’t enough evidence to support the claim that distracted driving is leading to more crashes or that laws banning texting or handheld cellphones are having any effect on reducing the number of distracted driving accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety isn’t suggesting that distracted driving doesn’t lead to crashes, just that it hasn’t led to a growing number.

Nevertheless, the Department of Transportation reports that distracted driving was linked to 10% of fatal crashes in 2005, and that number grew to 16% in 2008. However, the number stayed the same in 2009–a result that the DOT attributes to the growing number of nationwide campaigns to stop distracted driving.