Feb 13 2014

Distracted Driving: Cell Phone Really to Blame?



During the first quarter of last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 7,630 people died in traffic crashes on American streets. That was 910 more than the first quarter of the previous year which yielded a 13.5 percent increase!  An increase in distracted driving, which kills about 3,000 people a year, could be part of the reason. The National Safety Council estimates that about a quarter of all crashes involve cell phones.  While more and more states have banned cell phones while driving, the effectiveness of those bans is questionable.

Despite nationwide initiatives to curb cell phone use while driving, there is no evidence indicating that the bans are effective.  States are urged to enact cell phone and texting bans, even as it declared that there is no solid evidence that any ban is effective in reducing crashes, injuries, or fatalities.  The National Safety Council report summarized all research on distracted drivers available as of January 2011 and focused its attention on distractions caused by cell phones and text messaging.   It found that there was no conclusive evidence that hands-free cell phone use is less risky than hand-held use.

It suggested that texting may carry a higher risk than other forms of cell phone use, but again found there was no conclusive evidence to verify that claim.   In fact, claims increased slightly in states enacting texting bans compared to neighboring states.

The rise was explained saying that texters may realize that texting bans are difficult to enforce, so they may have little incentive to reduce texting for fear of being detected and fined and they are hiding their phones from view, potentially increasing their distractive effects by requiring longer glances away from the road.

Although reports show that bans may not be effective, there is a significant amount of data that illustrates distracted driving is clearly a growing problem. Cell phones are the only problem.  There are dangers of electronic distractions, anything that diverts a driver’s full attention from the road is also a distraction, including eating, drinking, talking, putting on make-up, adjusting the radio, and even updating a GPS.

People’s driving habits and behavior will not change if the laws of driving do not force them to reform.  We need effective laws that will affect behavior change and the way people drive.  In the meantime, put your make-up on before you get in your car…use your hands free phone device if that call is important.  Or better yet, pull over to take the call.  There is NO text message worth your life or someone else’s.