David Kirkpatrick

November 21, 2009

Mobile phones and driving just don’t mix

Even “hands-free” cell phone use. I’ve written on this exact topic for an insurance website and cited the same studies referenced in this article. I’m not even going to comment on the inanity of doing any sort of texting while driving — sending or receiving — but anyone who has ever spoken on a cell phone when driving (a group that includes pretty much anyone who has access to a car and a mobile phone) knows there were times that you lost total awareness of something happening on the road around you, be it a traffic signal, a missed exit, a near miss on a lane change, or something else. The kicker to all the studies is research has very conclusively proven it doesn’t matter if the cell phone use is hand-held or hands-free, it is simply more dangerous — much more dangerous — than driving sans mobile device.

From the second link:

Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for example, show that drivers are four times more likely to have an accident if they are talking on the phone — hands-free or not — while driving.

The reason, researchers say, is that drivers often become engrossed in their conversation, rather than focusing on driving, even if their hands are on the wheel. “Once a conversation begins, we don’t see a difference between hand-held and hands-free,” says Adrian Lund, president of the institute.

And from the first link, the pull quotes I chose for this web content created for an insurance aggregator client:

How dangerous is mixing driving with cell phone use?

The quick answer is pretty dangerous. The National Safety Commission released the results of a number of studies showing distractions, particularly cell phone use while driving, cause many accidents.

Here are two excerpts from the NSC alert:

“A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that almost 80 percent of motor vehicle crashes and 65% of near crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds before the event. While the study looked at all different types of driver distractions, it listed use of wireless communication devices (cell phones and PDAs) as the most common form of driver distraction”

And,

“An earlier University of Utah study showed that a 20 year old driver on a cell phone had the same reaction time as a 70 year old. Regardless of age, drivers on cell phones were 18% slower in stepping on the brakes, and 17% slower in regaining their speed after braking. They also kept a greater following distance and slower speed than drivers who were not using cell phones, which contributes to congestion on the roadways.”

Based on these statistics a number of states have banned cell phone use that isn’t hands-free when driving, many more cities and towns have passed similar bans and new cell phone related ordinances are being enacted on a regular basis. The studies into the safety of cell phone use find there is little difference in the distractions created by hands-free or hand-held conversations when driving. It goes without requiring emphasis that texting while driving is very distracting and dangerous.

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