Cell phones continue to distract drivers

By Meghan McSloy
November 26, 2010

On the road, a driver glances down for a split second to answer a text message. The next moment, they find themselves colliding head-on with another driver in the oncoming lane. This is the reality for 5,000 drivers who are killed each year due to distractions in their cars.

Distracted driving is becoming a national epidemic. With the increasing prominence of smart phones and other gadgets in cars, drivers are increasingly busy on the roads.

Defined as “any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing,” distracted driving is increasing at a rapid rate

“An important takeaway is that distracted driving has been a single check-off on most police reports and could include texting, calling on a cellphone, drowsiness, eating food, playing with the radio, GPS, reading a map, talking to other passengers, so it has been hard statistically to break out by category,” Rick Remington, manager of public and government affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic, said. “In addition, drivers who survive accidents are not likely to admit to a police officer that they were texting or calling on their cell phone.”

The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety recently issued “grades” to all states based on safe driving laws.

Pennsylvania was given a “red light” due to a lack of laws that keep drivers safe on the roads. When a state is given the “red light” it shows that the state is not doing much in terms of safe driving laws that limit cell phones and other devices while driving.

New Jersey was given a “green light,” meaning that they are sufficiently fulfilling the safe driving laws recommended by The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Despite laws that were recently put into place banning cell phones in cars, drivers are still using their phones.

“One interesting statistic that has emerged from N.J. is that police there are issuing 10,000 tickets per month for cell phone use while driving which is banned in the state,” Remington said.

The teenage and college-aged population also have a higher rate of distractions in their cars.

An August 2010 survey of teen drivers concluded that 60 percent have talked on a cell phone while driving and 28 percent have texted while driving. These teens have sent 28 texts while driving within a month.  Of all surveyed, 36 percent believe that they have been involved in a near crash due to their own or other’s distracted driving.

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Meghan McSloy

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