If you think new laws prohibiting the use of a handheld cellphone while driving have curbed accidents, think again. Even though eight states (Tennessee not included) had banned drivers from using handheld cellphones as of May 2011, and 32 states have banned texting, the problem of distracted driving appears to be growing, not shrinking.

Think about it: if you’re stuck at a typical Knoxville intersection, how often do you see drivers whiz by with a cell phone plastered to their ear? According to a new federal survey, about a tenth of fatal motor vehicle accidents last year were caused by distracted driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which released the study recently, at least one in 20 drivers observed at any given moment is talking on a cellphone. Plus, one in 100 is sending a text message or using some sort of handheld device.

It’s actually quite possible that there are more offenders than that. NHTSA says it’s impossible to document every accident related to distracted driving, particularly when there is a lack of witnesses. However, authorities have been attempting to narrow data related to distracted drivers. Instead of combining data involving “careless” driving, they are targeting drivers believed to be distracted, according to a CNN article.

With new laws and measures in place, why is the problem growing? It’s hard to say, but experts agree that something must change so that these fatalities can be prevented.

Source: CNN, “Millions of drivers won’t hang up, study says,” Mike M. Ahlers, Dec. 8, 2011