Driving With Cell Phones & Text Messaging Research Legislation

By: Christopher M. Davis

Driver distraction is a major cause of accidents. Which is why 29 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws restricting cell phone use to use with a hands-free device (no jurisdiction has an outright ban). New Jersey and Washington state have been the only states ones to ban text messaging, though 21 states are considering such bills this year.

Why the legislative trend?

In 2006, nearly half of the 3,580 phone-related crashes in New Jersey involved a cellular phone. Forty-five percent of fatal accidents that year also involved a hands-free device.

That same year over 350 drivers were reported to be distracted by cell phones when involved in accidents on Florida roadways.

But don't feel think that using a hands-free device with your cell phone is enough to reduce your chance of being in an accident. Carnegie Mellon University researchers say you're still likely going to be distracted. The researchers used brain imaging to show that even just listening to a cell phone while driving cuts by more than a third of your attention to driving.

And, other research, from the University of Utah, has shown that cell phone wielding drivers actually tend to drive more slowly and can create traffic jams.

But are cell phones the only cause of driver distraction? A recent study by Virginia Tech University and the National Highway Safety Administration recorded the results of more than 100 distracted drivers.

In all, more than 7,000 crashes and near crashes were recorded. Pictures show drivers falling asleep, eating while driving, applying make-up, reading newspapers or maps, and others getting into accidents due to talking on the cell phone or sending text messages. In all, more than 7,000 crashes and near crashes were recorded.

A January 2007 survey by the auto insurer Nationwide found that 19 percent of motorists say they text message while driving.

Driver distraction contributes to as many as half of car accidents says AAA. And drivers talking with a hands-free device are still distracted by the conversation, and they still have to use their hands to dial or pick up a call.

Ford Motor Company research shows that teens are four times more distracted than adults by cell phone use when driving. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board listed prohibiting teens from driving with cell phones as one of its "Most Wanted" Highway Safety Improvements Federal Issues.

A survey conducted by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and Students Against Destructive Decisions showed that teens considered sending text messages via cell phones to be their biggest distraction while driving.

A 2006 study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the event.

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