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Commentary
12/13/2010
12:06 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
Commentary
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Cell Phones Significant Part Of Traffic Deaths

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report on 2009 traffic statistics a few months ago and it should come as no surprise cell phones had a big impact. In traffic deaths that were related to distracted driving, cell phone use of some sort was related in eighteen percent of the incidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report on 2009 traffic statistics a few months ago and it should come as no surprise cell phones had a big impact. In traffic deaths that were related to distracted driving, cell phone use of some sort was related in eighteen percent of the incidents.In the US last year, 5,474 people were killed and an additional 448,000 were injured due to distracted driving. Of the incidents involving death, 995 were known to have a cell phone involved. The worst were those in the 30-39 age range with teens close behind.

Of particular interest to me was the incidents that involved motorcycles. Even though they account for just two percent of autos registered in the US, six percent of cell phone related distracted driving accidents where death occurred involved a motorcycle, and I'd wager only the tiniest fraction of those accidents were due to the motorcyclist using a phone. As someone who no longer owns a car, I notice far more people on the road messing with cell phones during my commute to and from work. I live in California where texting is illegal as is talking on the phone without a hands free headset. When I pull up next to one of these drivers, I give them a wide berth and monitor them in my rear view mirrors until I am well ahead of them.

Because motorcycles are harder see due to their relative size, someone paying even the smallest bit of attention to their phone are much more likely not to realize a motorcycle is around them and shift lanes or make a turn, resulting in a close call, accident and even death.

Some argue that they only look at their phones when stopped at a light. I am also a runner and notice that drivers messing with their phones at red lights are only paying attention to the light or the car in front and not pedestrian traffic or bicyclists. I've fortunately not witnessed any accidents, but I see at least one car each month start moving and then slam on the brakes as they actually start paying attention to their surroundings when they put the phone down.

So now that we know cell phones magnify the distraction level in a car, I want to ask these people what is so important that it is worth risking their lives and the lives of those around them?

Ray LaHood, the US Transportation Secretary, is considering a nationwide ban of cell phone use in cars. It is an uphill struggle though as each state would have to ratify the ban, and the special interest groups are opposed to it. Apparently a lot of people think that their sales call, casual conversation with their BFF or a quick text to their girl friend is more important than the lives of me, my wife and my kids. Are you one of those people, or do you fall on the side that feels human life is more important than being connected 100 percent of the time?

The full NHTSA report can be found here.

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