Archive for February, 2013

Cell Phone Use and Its Impact on the Rate of Auto Accidents

Cell phones have ballooned in popularity over the last decade. Not surprisingly, so have concerns regarding distracted driving and the role that these ubiquitous electronic devices may have in causing a variety of motor vehicle-related accidents. A significant body of research – conducted under both experimental and on-the-road conditions – has demonstrated that using either hand-held cell phones or hands-free cell phone devices can lead to driving practices that can undermine safe driving. Unfortunately, the extent to which cell phone use while driving increases the risk of accidents has been difficult to determine, due in part to the fact that police crash reports are not reliable indicators of whether or not drivers were using a cell phone at the time a crash occurred.

Nevertheless, a number of important studies have demonstrated that operating a cell phone while driving significantly increases the risk of a crash. A 1997 study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of experiencing a collision while actively using a cell phone was four times higher than the risk when a phone was not actively being used. A more recent study published in the British Medical Journal also reached similar conclusions, demonstrating a four-fold increase in the risk of a crash when cell phones were used within the 10 minutes prior to a crash occurring. According to recent statistics published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 13.5 million drivers are simultaneously using cell phones at any given time during the daylight hours. In addition, the NTSB documented that close to 3,100 roadway fatalities in 2010 involved distracted drivers. The National Safety Council estimated that 23% (1.3 million) of all crashes that occurred in 2011 involved the use of cell phones.

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