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Cars And Cell Phones Make A Deadly Equation

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Cars And Cell Phones Make A Deadly Equation

Peter Kent
30 December 2007


Wireless communication has dramatically improved daily life, but mobile phone technology also has a dramatic downside: the proliferation of cell phone use by drivers has made the roads considerably more dangerous.

Cell Phones are a Leading Cause of Driver Distraction

A joint study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in April 2006 concluded that nearly 80 percent of car crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes occur within three seconds of some kind of driver distraction. Dialing a cell phone ranked among the most dangerous distractions, tripling the risk of being involved in an auto accident. Unlike the danger presented by dialing, the study found that talking on a cell phone was less dangerous than drowsiness or reaching for a falling object. However, the prevalence of cell phone use by drivers makes it one of the most common - and therefore most dangerous - factors in car and truck crashes. According to the NHTSA, there are over 10 million U.S. drivers talking on cellular phones at any given moment, an alarming figure given the link between cell phones and distracted driving.

Cell Phones Bans on the Rise

In response to the increasing evidence linking cellular phone use and auto accidents, a number of states have started to ban their use on the roads. States with legislation restricting cell phone use while driving include New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Connecticut. In 2008, California will join the ranks of states banning hand-held phone use by drivers. In addition, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 14 states have banned mobile phone use by minors as of November 2006.

Hands-Free Is No Safety Guarantee

Many drivers have switched to hands-free mobile phone devices in an effort to cut down on their risk of being involved in car accidents. However, recent evidence suggests that even a hands-free cell phone presents a danger on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study conducted in Perth, Australia in 2005, switching from hand-held cell phones to hands-free devices does not reduce the risk of car crashes. A recent study conducted by the University of Utah and published in the summer 2006 issue of Human Factors also concludes that hands-free cellular phones carry the same risk as hand-held phones. Evidence on hands-free phones continues to indicate that talking on the phone is a dangerous distraction, reducing driver alertness and reaction time, regardless of the type of cell phone being used.

In the event that you are involved in a car or truck accident in which a cellular phone has played a part, contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney right away. Your auto accident lawyer can help you file a suit, if appropriate, and possibly recover damages to which you may be entitled.


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