Driving Under the Influence … of a Cell Phone

Did you know that of the 3.5 million people in the U.S. that suffer serious injuries in motor vehicle accidents, 24% involve cell phone usage?

Seven out of 10 Americans talk on the phone while driving. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 69% of Americans had used their cell phone while driving in the last 30 days before they were surveyed. Furthermore, 31% sent or read text messages or emails while driving.

cell phones & driving

The ongoing debate over driver distraction

More and more auto manufacturers are offering hands-free/Bluetooth in car communication systems. Most people have heard of Ford’s SYNC system, and the other manufacturers have followed suit: Mercedes’ mbrace, Toyota’s enTune, Chevy’s MyLink, and so forth. Bluetooth usability is something to keep in mind when buying a new car (if you test drive a new car through Tred, we’d be delighted to walk you through its Bluetooth system).

If you’re not in the market for a new vehicle, you still have options. You may choose to purchase a Bluetooth ear piece, or you may just pull over if you absolutely need to answer a call or text (or, god forbid, you may wait until you arrive at your destination!). Just as “don’t drink and drive” has become a commonplace advisory phrase, the “don’t drive and text” campaign strikes eerie similarities.

Research studies indicate that texting while driving causes greater impairment than driving while under the influence of alcohol. Of course there are many variables – level of intoxication, duration of time looking at the phone, etc. Nonetheless, using a cell phone while driving is dangerous – much more so than most people realize. Would you bring a cocktail into the car while driving? No (at least let’s hope not). This puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Just ask yourself – is it worth the risk to others on the road, and the risk to myself, to answer that call or text right this second?

Guilty As Charged

I’ve seen more and more billboards that clearly indicate the ticket price if one is caught using a cell phone while driving. Here are some interesting statistics from the Governors Highway Safety Association regarding state by state cell phone usage road laws:

  1. Hand-held Cell Phone Use: 10 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, D.C., and the US Virgin Islands prohibit drivers from using hand-held devices while driving. In these states, you will be pulled over and ticketed regardless of your pre-existing traffic record;
  2. Novice Drivers:  36 States & DC ban cell phone use by novice drivers, and 19 states & DC ban cell phone use by bus drivers;
  3. Texting:  39 states, DC, Guam and the US Virgin Islands ban texting while driving (45 states ban novice drivers).

We’ve all heard of MADD (mothers against drunk driving), which was created in 1980 to stop drunk driving and to prevent underage drinking. In light of the data that suggests that using a cell phone while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk, it might be time to launch MAID: Mothers Against Impaired Driving. But however cell phones, drivers and municipalities harmonize, we’ll follow the story closely. Stay tuned.


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