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Cell Phones - A Leading Cause of Driver Distraction
Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2007

By: Staff

78% of Driving Crashes, Near Crashes and Incidents  Due to Inattention; Cell Phones Are #1 Distraction

Distraction is a leading cause of crashes for teens. Driver distraction comes in many forms. What they all have in common is that the driver takes his or her eyes off the road ahead.  Researchers have pin-pointed the most common causes of distraction, making it easier for parents to set rules that address each one. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) video taped over 2 million miles of driving using in-vehicle video equipment, following 100 drivers for a period of one year. 

They classified all forms of driver distraction into different categories -- cell phone related, passenger related, personal hygiene and so forth.

Using a cell phone was by far the greatest example of secondary task distraction in this study. Dialing the phone and talking/listening were the greatest contributors to near crashes and incidents. Other activities – reaching for the phone, speed dialing – contributed less frequently, but still represent a risky behavior. [Ed. ~ Other studies are beginning to show that text messaging while driving is far more common among teen drivers than you might believe. This clearly draws a lot more attention from the driving task to the dialing task -- leading to crashes.]

The cellular industry would lose millions of dollars – perhaps billions –if cell phones were banned nationwide in a moving vehicle. Such a ban, however, is not likely to be implemented because states and their citizens, for the most part, do not want to put such laws into effect. However as of January, 2007 several states (CO, DE, IL, ME, MD, MN, NC, RI, TN, TX and WV) have laws in place that prohibit young drivers from using cell phones when driving. Further, CA (effective 1/1/2008), CN, NJ, NY, DC and certain localities in IL, MA, MI, NM, OH and PA prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones.

It takes only about three seconds of inattention to crash. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and NHTSA report that using a cell phone in the car is the number one cause of distraction leading to crashes, near crashes and adverse incidents. 
(See pages 7-9 of the report.)










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