(ARA) – It’s the new drinking and driving — and for good reason. As Americans become more addicted to their cell phones, BlackBerry devices and other PDAs, lawmakers throughout the nation are taking action in the wake of a disturbing national trend linking cell phone use with car crashes.
Put your cell phone away and keep your hands on the wheel
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) reports the use of cell phones and other mobile devices now accounts for 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes. Research shows that driving while talking, texting or e-mailing with a cell phone or PDA can pose a serious distraction and interfere with driving a motor vehicle.
As a result of the growing number of cell phone-related car accidents, more states are pushing for legislation to ban cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle, according to FindLaw.com, the Internet’s leading Web site for legal information. States that have banned the handheld use of cell phones by drivers include California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah and Washington as well as the District of Columbia.
The facts are especially alarming for teenagers, for whom driving-related incidents are the leading cause of death. According to an NHTSA report, more than 50 percent of teens admit to talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. At least 20 states, including Texas, currently ban any kind of cell phone use by teenage drivers, says FindLaw.com.
Because of the alarming trend linking cell phone use and driving, the National Safety Council has gone even further by calling for a complete ban on the use of all cell phones, including “hands-free” devices, for drivers nationwide.
Any activity a driver engages in while driving has the potential to distract the motorist from the primary task of operating the vehicle. A distraction is defined by any event or action that takes your eyes off the road (visual), mind off the road (cognitive), or takes your hands off the steering wheel (manual). Some research findings compare cell phone use to other activities such as passenger conversations or changing a CD while driving.
For example, studies have shown that cell phone use compared to carrying on a conversation with a passenger can be equally risky, while other studies show cell phone use to be more risky. The difference between the two is a passenger can monitor the driving situation along with the driver and pause for, or alert the driver to, potential hazards, whereas a person on the other end of the phone line is unaware of the roadway situation.
But what if a driver encounters an emergency situation or witnesses another driver’s erratic driving? As a general rule, if you are in your car and witness a car accident or another emergency, pull your vehicle over to a safe location and call 911.
However, in emergency situations drivers must use their judgment regarding the urgency of the situation and the necessity to use a cell phone while driving. The key here is to avoid creating another emergency because you’re using your cell phone.
In addition to using a cell phone, there are many other distractions that can increase the risk of losing control of your vehicle, according to FindLaw.com. Some activities that appear to be “hands free,” such as looking at a GPS map screen, can be just as distracting as navigating a car while eating a hamburger. According to a study by the NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involve some form of driver distraction.
The study further concluded that the typical distraction occurred within three seconds before the vehicle crash. The bottom line is that drivers who engage more frequently in distracted driving are more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident or near crash. Some common distractions that should be avoided include:
- Eating while driving, including unwrapping food products.
- Changing a CD or adjusting the radio.
- Applying make-up.
- Settling a dispute between children.
- Controlling a loose pet.
- Reading a print map or watching a GPS map screen while driving.
- Looking at an object or event outside of your car, like another accident.
It is also important to keep in mind that some activities are carried out more frequently and for longer periods of time and may result in greater risk. The primary responsibility of the driver is to operate a motor vehicle safely. The task of driving requires full attention and focus. Cell phone use can distract drivers from this task, risking harm to themselves and others. Therefore, the safest course of action is to refrain from using a cell phone while driving.
To learn more about cell phone use and driving laws, visit www.findlaw.com.
Driving while distracted
A growing number of people are paying attention to the dangers of driving while distracted. According to a recent survey, U.S. drivers say they are talking and texting less while driving than they did a year ago, and they say it’s because they are more aware of what can happen if they are driving while distracted (DWD).
The survey shows that 20 percent of drivers with cell phones say they text while driving and that number jumps to 47 percent for drivers under the age of 35. Of those who admit to texting behind the wheel, 40 percent say they do it less often than they did last year. The survey was sponsored by Nationwide Insurance.
According to the telephone survey of 1,005 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Interactive, 67 percent of drivers admit to talking on their cell phone while driving. Of those who do, 30 percent say they do it less often than they did last year.
While the problem of DWD remains one of the deadliest risks facing drivers, this survey shows that drivers are changing their behavior due to awareness and legislation.
“This is the first survey we’ve seen showing drivers making positive changes in their behavior, but there are still too many drivers who either don’t realize just how dangerous distractions behind the wheel are or are willing to take that risk,” said Bill Windsor, Nationwide’s associate vice president of Consumer Safety. “The stigma now associated with distracted driving may also have fewer people willing to admit they do it, but studies continue to indicate that DWD causes one out of every four U.S. crashes.”
Hands-free not used widely.
While hands-free technology is readily available, two-thirds of drivers surveyed say they rarely or never use the devices. Most drivers who do use a hands-free device report feeling safer when doing so, although nearly one in four of these drivers say they talk more often since they started using the hands-free device.
“This survey shows that it is likely that when handheld cell phone laws are passed that a number of people will switch to hands-free devices and their usage of the phones will actually go up,” said Windsor. “More research needs to be done on the extent of crash risk related to the cognitive distraction aspect of cell phone use. We need to be sure that for this segment of heavy users it does not actually result in increased crashes.”
To learn more, visit www.nationwide.com.
According to a recent survey, U.S. drivers say they are talking and texting less while driving than they did a year ago.
Take Action To Avoid Driving Distractions
(NAPS)—It may seem harmless to answer a quick call, grab a bite to eat or let your dog ride in your lap when you’re behind the wheel. But in 2008, accidents caused by distracted drivers injured about 515,000 people.
It takes two hands, a sharp eye and your full attention to safely drive your car. Anything that keeps you from doing so means you’re driving while distracted, or “DWD.”
There are some simple ways to kick DWD habits. Follow these four tips to steer clear of distraction:
- Hit the “off” button. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for every 4.6 seconds spent texting behind the wheel, drivers travel the length of a football field—without looking up. Talking on your cell phone delays your reaction time, even if you use a hands-free model. Your e-mail, voice mail and return calls can wait until after the trip. So turn off your phone.
- Eat up before you start up. An Exxon survey of 1,000 drivers showed that more than 70 percent liked to use their steering wheels as tray tables and 83 percent used their center consoles as beverage carts. To drive with your hands firmly on the wheel and avoid staining your new shirt, save the burgers, tacos and cups of coffee for your home or office.
- Pull over. Maps and GPS systems are handy tools to get you from point A to point B. When you need to check your grid or change your destination, take the next exit or stop at the nearest rest area. Pulling over on the side of the road is a dangerous and unsafe alternative.
- Keep ’em caged. Keep all your passengers safe by securing your pets in a harness or a crate. They remain in one place, freeing you to focus on what’s in front of you rather than the rearview mirror.
To learn more on how to avoid DWD, visit www.distraction.gov.
- Be prepared before you start your car. If you put on makeup, eat, or program your GPS before you hit the road, you’ll cut down on some distractions. If you organize what you need for your final destination before you leave, you won’t need to search while driving.
- Go hands free. If you must use the cell phone when driving, invest in technology that will help you keep your eyes on the road. Several installation-free kits are available that can help you go hands free for less than the cost of a ticket.
- Take a break. Even with a hands-free device, the best idea is to pull over if you must make calls, answer texts or deal with issues involving other passengers.
Keeping your driving record free from accidents and citations can help lower your car insurance rates, point out the experts at Progressive. For more information or to find a nearby agent, visit www.progressiveagent.com.
Don’t drive with pets roaming free in your car. Keep them safely in a harness or a crate to stay safe on the road.
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Content courtesy of ARAcontent and NAPS. Last updated January 27, 2017. #StoptheText