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Thursday, December 18, 2008
Research Reveals Hands-Free Cell Phones Are No Safer Than Hand-Held Phones
A recently-released study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that two-thirds of Americans who drive while talking on cell phones believe it is safer to use a hands-free cell phone than to drive while holding a device. But scientific research proves that is simply not true.
Studies that have examined the cell phone records of crash-involved drivers have revealed that as the number of cell phone subscribers and percentage of drivers using cell phones increases, using a cell phone while driving makes you four times as susceptible to be involved in a crash.
"Too many Americans are driving with the false sense of security that hands-free devices are somehow safer, which could be a deadly mistake," said Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation President and CEO. "Evidence shows that using a hands-free phone while driving impairs your reaction time to critical events and increases your crash risk about the same as if you were using a hand-held phone. Drivers need to be aware of the dangers of distracted driving and pay full attention while they are behind the wheel."
Two recent AAA Foundation surveys of the U.S. drivers discovered that:
Over half of U.S. drivers admit to using a cell phone while driving.
• In one survey, 53% of drivers admitted to using a cell phone while driving at least occasionally in the previous month; in the other survey, 61% admitted the same. In both surveys, one in six even said that it’s a regular practice.
• While driving and talking on a cell phone, 60% used a hand-held device and 34% talked into a hands-free phone.
One in seven even admitted to driving while text messaging in the past 30 days.
• Young drivers text messaged overwhelmingly more than older drivers, and talked on cell phones more while driving. For example, almost 50% of drivers ages 18 to 24 said they text while driving at least occasionally, as compared to less than five percent of those ages 45 and older.
A large percentage admit they at least occasionally talk on a cell phone while driving despite their belief that drivers using cell phones are a serious traffic safety problem.
Although cell phone laws vary from state to state, no state has banned all cell phone use by drivers. Hand-held cell phone use by drivers is banned in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Washington and the District of Columbia. There are states that ban all cell phone usage while driving for particular groups of drivers, such as teens (18 states and D.C.) or school bus drivers, except in emergency situations (17 states and D.C.). Laws that specifically ban text messaging while driving are in effect in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington State.
"Given the trouble new teen drivers have managing distractions and making safe driving decisions, AAA encourages all states to enact laws banning teens from using any wireless device while driving," said Kathleen Marvaso, Vice President of Public Affairs for AAA. "Texting while driving poses even greater safety concerns than cell phone use due to the time involved looking away from the road, and should also be made illegal for drivers of all ages. Even if a state does not have a law banning these sorts of distracting activities, drivers should focus on safe driving at all times."
To curtail this behavior, state legislatures and local governments are pressing for more, and stricter, laws. In 2008, hand-held banning bills were debated in 30 states. Jurisdictions with handheld phone bans include: Chicago, Ill.; Brookline, Mass.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Detroit, Mich.; Brooklyn, North Olmstead, and Walton Hills, Ohio; and Conshohocken, Lebanon, and West Conshohocken, Pa. No state or locality has banned all driver cell phone use, but in 2008 bills were considered in six state legislatures. In 2008, legislation that would ban text messaging while driving was considered in 26 cities, including Phoenix, Ariz., Chicago, Ill., and Detroit, Mich. having passed local ordinances banning the dangerous practice.
"Young drivers face an array of potentially deadly challenges behind the wheel," said Kissinger. "Parents should ensure cell phone use while driving, whether hands-free or not, isn't added to the list of distractions at this critical time for new drivers."
Is your teen a safe driver? The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has developed a new Teen Injury Prevention course to emphasize driving safety for teenagers. For more information, including a Driver Education a Driver Education Book for Parents, visit http://www.safedriver.com/.