ITASCA, Illinois — As motorists prepare for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, they should be aware that cell phone-related crashes have increased for the third consecutive year and now account for 27 percent of all crashes, according to the National Safety Council.
The estimate includes crashes involving drivers who are texting or talking on cell phones.
"The incredible connectivity enabled by technology has resulted in a very dangerous environment behind the wheel," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, in a statement Monday.
Texting increases a driver's crash risk by at least eight times, while drivers talking on cell phones are four times as likely to crash regardless of whether they're using a handheld or hands-free phone.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is trying to put the brakes on texting and cell phone use behind the wheel, saying that distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America's roadways. In 2013, 3,154 were killed in distracted-driving crashes.
Safety advocates are also calling attention to motor-vehicle safety as the summer driving season begins.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday launched its 2015 "Click It or Ticket" campaign in advance of the holiday weekend. This campaign urges motorists to use seatbelts.
In 2013, seatbelts saved an estimated 12,584 lives among passenger vehicle occupants 5 years old and up, according to the most recent NHTSA data. Historically, seatbelts saved an estimated 62,468 lives from 2009-'13.
Edmunds says: Put the phone down, buckle up and drive safely this holiday weekend. In fact, why not do that every day of the year?