Driving and Cell Phones
In the United States over 212 million people used cell phones as of April 2006, compared with approximately 4.3 million in 1990, according to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. Without question, cell phones play an integral role in our society. However, the convenience they offer must be judged against the hazards they pose. Inattentive driving accounted for 6.4 percent of crash fatalities in 2003 — the latest data available — according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Inattentive driving includes talking, eating, putting on make up and attending to children. Using cell phones and other wireless or electronic units are also considered distractions.
Increased reliance on cell phones has led to a rise in the number of people who use the devices while driving. There are two dangers associated with driving and cell-phone use. First, drivers must take their eyes off the road while dialing. Second, people can become so absorbed in their conversations that their ability to concentrate on the act of driving is severely impaired, jeopardizing the safety of vehicle occupants and pedestrians. Since the first law was passed in New York in 2001 banning hand-held cell-phone use while driving, there has been debate as to the exact nature and degree of hazard. The latest research shows that while using a cell phone when driving may not be the most dangerous distraction, because it is so prevalent it is by far the most common cause of this type of crash and near crash.
As many as 40 countries may restrict or prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. Most countries prohibit the use of hand-held phones while driving. Drivers in the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom may use cell phones but can be fined if they are involved in crashes while using the phone. Drivers in the United Kingdom and Germany also can lose insurance coverage if they are involved in a crash while talking on the phone. In the US, twenty states have some restrictions on cell phone use while driving, with Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington D.C. banning the use of hand-held phones completely while behind the wheel.
Supporters of restrictions on driving while using a cell phone say that the distractions associated with cell phone use while driving are far greater than other distractions. Conversations using a cell phone demand greater continuous concentration, which diverts the driver’s eyes from the road and his mind from driving. Opponents of cell phone restrictions say drivers should be educated about the effects of all driver distractions. They also say that existing laws that regulate driving should be more strictly enforced.
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This article was written by SafeMotorist.com defensive driving staff writers and reviewed for accuracy by defensive driving instructors. All articles are based on current traffic laws and defensive driving practices. This article is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as legal advice or literal interpretation of any specific traffic law.