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Talking on the Phone While Driving Could Cost More Than You Realize (Spring 2007) << Back
Today, we just can't be parted from our cell phones, especially when we are driving.  A recent survey conducted by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that approximately 10 percent of drivers on the road are talking on their cell phones when behind the wheel.  This is a 25 percent increase from 2004's levels.  Sixty percent of those drivers are using handheld phones, up from 50% last year.  Clearly the cell phone has gone from emergency aid to chic accessory.
Even though talking on the cell phone while driving may be fashionable, many state governments do not feel the same way.  Although there is no federal law limiting cell phone use while driving, many states have passed their own legislation.  For example, some states have banned the use of handheld devices while driving, but allow the use of hands-free devices.  Other states have chosen to put restrictions on driver classifications, such as bus drivers or drivers under the age of 30, rather than create a general ban on cell phone use.
The frenzy surrounding cell phone use while driving stems from studies which indicate that drivers who talk on the phone are more likely to cause accidents.  One recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that both handheld and hands-free phones increased the risk of a crash.  The test group included 456 participants who used a cell phone and were treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered in crashes from April 2002 to July 2004.  By using phone records and interviews, the Institute calculated the increased risk of a crash by investigating phone use during the 10 minutes prior to a participant's crash.
The increased risk stems from a situation that was dubbed "inattention blindness," by researchers David Strayer, Frank Drews and William Johnston in a 2003 study conducted at the University of Utah.  They discovered that talking on cell phones while driving diverts the driver's attention from their visual environment, making them unable to recognize objects encountered in their visual field.  Other studies indicate that phone drivers are twice as likely to rear-end the car ahead of them as drivers not using phones.
Exxon Mobil researchers found that phone drivers are as likely to rear-end the car ahead as drunk drivers, and that they are unable to maintain position in their respective lanes of traffic.  In addition, their research indicates that the braking reaction time of drivers using cell phone is three times longer than that of drunk drivers!  Exxon Mobil now prohibits its employees from talking on the phone while driving company cars.
It appears that phone drivers are the drunk drivers of the new millennium.  Please heed the advice of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association:  “You may need to save your calls until you reach your destination, or at least pull into a safe place such as a parking lot to make your call.”  And, if you need to make a call while driving, “Keep the call short”.
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1451 W. Artesia Blvd, Suite A, Gardena, California 90248
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