Driving and cell phone dangers

Texas needs to pass a law limiting drivers from driving and texting while they drive.

Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.

A 2003 Harvard study estimated that cellphone distractions caused 2,600 traffic deaths every year, and 330,000 accidents that result in moderate or severe injuries.

Yet Americans have largely ignored that research. Instead, they increasingly use phones, navigation devices and even laptops to turn their cars into mobile offices, chat rooms and entertainment centers, making roads more dangerous.

A disconnect between perception and reality worsens the problem. New studies show that drivers overestimate their own ability to safely multitask, even as they worry about the dangers of others doing it.

Device makers and auto companies acknowledge the risks of multitasking behind the wheel, but they aggressively develop and market gadgets that cause distractions.

Police in almost half of all states make no attempt to gather data on the problem. They are not required to ask drivers who cause accidents whether they were distracted by a phone or other device. Even when officers do ask, some drivers are not forthcoming.

The federal government warns against talking on a cellphone while driving, but no state legislature has banned it. This year, state legislators introduced about 170 bills to address distracted driving, but passed fewer than 10.

Five states and the District of Columbia require drivers who talk on cellphones to use hands-free devices, but research shows that using headsets can be as dangerous as holding a phone because the conversation distracts drivers from focusing on the road.

Fourteen states have passed measures to ban texting while driving.

From The New York Times

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