Cell Phones Becoming Common Road Hazard

According to statistics, a person will die in a vehicle crash every 12 seconds in the United States. Statistics also show that vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans age 35 and younger, and a startling 98% of reported accidents involve a single distracted driver.

Distractions include rubbernecking (watching other drivers and accidents), driver fatigue, looking at scenery, passenger- or child-related distractions, adjusting the radio, and cell phone use. In fact, a new study confirms that the reaction time of cell phone users slows dramatically, increasing the risk of accidents and tying up traffic in general.

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association reports that in 1990, approximately 4.3 million people subscribed to wireless communication devices such as cell phones; in May 2007, that number was 236 million. With increased reliance on cell phones, the number of people using them while driving has naturally increased. There are predominantly two dangers associated with driving while using cell phones: drivers must take their eyes off the road to dial, and people become so absorbed in their conversations that their ability to concentrate on driving is impaired.

University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer, in a study on cell phone use and auto accidents, said, “If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old who is not using a cell phone.” Strayer’s study was published in the quarterly journal Human Factors.

Each year, cell phone distraction while driving causes approximately 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States. Because data on cell phone use is somewhat limited, the actual numbers of deaths and injuries may be much higher. Strayer and his colleagues have found that even hands-free cell phone use distracts drivers. They explain that the drivers are looking but they’re not really seeing because they are distracted by the conversation they are engaged in.

According to this study, scientists found that motorists talking on cell phones while driving are less adept than drunk drivers with blood alcohol levels beyond the legal limit of .08. The cell phone users’ impaired reactions involved seconds, not just fractions of seconds, so stopping distances increased by car-lengths, not feet.

Motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The July 2005 study suggested that banning hand-held cell phone use wouldn’t improve safety if drivers simply switch to hands-free phones and continue to talk and be distracted. The study concluded that crash and injury risk did not vary with type of cell phone used. In 2001, New York passed the first law banning hand-held cell phone use while driving prompting a national debate on the extent of the danger cell phone use while driving poses.

In May 2007, Washington state became the first state to ban the practice of text messaging while driving; the fine for DWT (driving while texting) is $101, but it is a secondary offense, meaning the driver must be pulled over for some other infraction before the DWT penalty can be imposed.

While cell phones play an integral role in our society, the convenience they offer may be coming at a very high price.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an auto accident in Chicago or anywhere in Illinois, please visit the website of experienced auto accident attorney Barry G. Doyle, P.C., serving clients in Chicago, Aurora, Rockford and surrounding areas of Illinois.

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8 Responses

  1. I was involved in an accident in D.C. because I was using a cell phone. I was talking on the phone without a headset and when the officer asked me about the accident I admitted to being on the cell phone. I am not from D.C. and I didn’t know it was illegal. I am to appear in court in a few weeks for the violation. What can I expect and should I bring a lawyer?

  2. Brenda, if you were involved in an accident you should immediately seek legal representation. In Washington, D.C. if you caused the accident due to cell phone use, this is considered a moving violation and you can be charged accordingly. Although the accident was unintentional it’s your responsibility to use caution when operating a motor vehicle. If found guilty you can be fined and your driving points will increase. If I were you I would contact a lawyer immediately to discuss your case.

  3. I believe there needs to be a much greater law according to this issue. People using a cell phone has to be one of the most idiotic things to do while driving. If you can live with the your self of possibly killing somebody then thats your decision. I hope you get the prison time that you deserve. A two minute conversation shouldn’t cause traffic jams and possibly taking another human beings rights to live. According to me your considered a murder.

  4. Jason,

    I agree with you there should be much stricter laws for both talking and texting while driving. Cell phones are now increasing the already high number of car accidents throughout the U.S.

  5. Horrible fact that cell phones are causing as many accidents as drinking and driving…

  6. I think they should make talking on a cell phone illegal when driving. I also think that people that decide to text message when driving should lose their license.

  7. Cell phones and text messaging while driving should be illegal. But even drinking coffee should be illegal. I see people drinking coffee, tilting their heads back and not seeing the road — while driving! There are many distractions that cause accidents.

  8. Good post on the dangers of talking on a cell phone while driving. Using a hands-free device may aid in curtail the amount of accidents caused by holding a cellphone while driving.

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