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 Texas : Features : Columns : Letters From North America :

Cell Phones and Driving

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry
Aside from picking on the United States Post Office, I suppose my next biggest gripe would have to be people driving while doing things with their cell phones. This past week I watched a news story concerning the man who invented cell phones. His was certainly a marvelous invention and itís hard to remember when we didnít have them. Obviously these have become a part of our daily lives over the past twenty five or so years, but I wonder how many of us are familiar with these statistics?

  • Talking on a cell phone causes nearly 25% of car accidents.
  • One-fifth of experienced adult drivers in the United States send text messages while driving.
  • In 2008 almost 6,000 people were killed and a half-million were injured in crashes related to driver distraction.
  • At any given time during daylight hours in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.
  • 4 out of every 5 accidents (80%) are attributed to distracted drivers. In contrast, drunk drivers account for roughly 1 out of 3 (33%) of all accidents nationally.
  • Texting while driving is about 6 times more likely to result in an accident than driving while intoxicated.
  • People who text while driving are 23% more likely to be in a car accident.
  • A study of dangerous driver behavior released in January 2007 by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. found that of 1,200 surveyed drivers, 73% talk on cell phones while driving. The same 2007 survey found that 19% of motorists say they text message while driving.
  • In 2005, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 10% of drivers are on handheld or hands free cell phones at any given hour of the day.
  • A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Motorists found that motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
  • In 2002, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis calculated that 2,600 people die each year as a result of using cell phones while driving. They estimated that another 330,000 are injured.
  • According to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, drivers talking on cell phones are 18% slower to react to brake lights. They also take 17% longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked
  • Of cell phone users that were surveyed, 85% said they use their phones occasionally when driving, 30% use their phones while driving on the highway, and 27% use them during half or more of the trips they take.
  • 84% of cell phone users stated that they believe using a cell phone while driving increases the risk of being in an accident.
  • The majority of Americans believe that talking on the phone and texting are two of the most dangerous behaviors that occur behind the wheel. Still, as many as 81% of drivers admit to making phone calls while driving.
  • The number of crashes and near-crashes linked to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening. Dialing is more dangerous but occurs less often than talking or listening.
  • Studies have found that texting while driving causes a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road.

    These are pretty sobering numbers arenít they? Yet every day that I am in my car I can just about tell who is dialing or texting while trying to drive. First of they tend to weave from one lane to another or sit through he lights after they have changed. How many times have you seen someone try to drive, talk on the phone and eat a donut or drink coffee at the same time? I know you have, so have I.

    The number that got me was the one that said more accidents are caused by distracted drivers than by drunk drivers. We donít need either. With more young drivers on the road as well as older (more mature) drivers, we all need to keep these figures in mind and not become a statistic or add to the ever growing list.

    No ones life (yours or theirs) is worth a phone call. We all need to be more careful and drive more responsibly.

    © Peary Perry
    Letters From North America
    - May 26, 2010 column
    Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
    Comments go to pperry@austin.rr.com
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