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28 percent of accidents involve talking, texting on cellphones - washingtonpost.com

28 percent of accidents involve talking, texting on cellphones

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Twenty-eight percent of traffic accidents occur when people talk on cellphones or send text messages while driving, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Safety Council.
The vast majority of those crashes, 1.4 million annually, are caused by cellphone conversations, and 200,000 are blamed on text messaging, according to the report from the council, a nonprofit group recognized by congressional charter as a leader on safety.
Because of the extent of the problem, federal transportation officials unveiled a organization Tuesday, patterned after Mothers Against Drunk Driving, that will combat driver cellphone use. The group, FocusDriven, grew out of a meeting on distracted driving sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation in the District last year.
Virtually everyone owns a cellphone, and it's evident to anyone who drives regularly that huge numbers of people, including some who support a ban, use them while driving. Persuading people to break that habit could be a tall order for FocusDriven.
"It's hard because everyone's addicted to their cellphone," said FocusDriven's president, Jennifer Smith, a Texan whose mother was killed by a man who ran a red light while talking on his cellphone. "That's where we come in. We put a real, human face to it. We're going to put the pressure on legislatures."
Enforcement of a texting ban requires officers to observe an act that usually is conducted in a driver's lap, and hands-free devices make it possible to talk on cellphones without being observed. More than 120 studies of cellphone use suggest that using hands-free devices doesn't eliminate the distraction caused by a phone conversation.

"It's not easy to enforce [a ban], but it's not impossible," said Chuck Hurley, executive director of MADD, who attended Tuesday's announcement of the new group's formation. "The main reason people talk on their cellphones is because they can. Eventually, [signal blocking] technology will address that."
Smith said law enforcement needs stronger laws and better tools to enforce them.
"Using a subpoena to get cellphone records has got to be a standard procedure," she said. "Perhaps cars should have a data recorder, like [an airplane's] crash recorder to use in these cases."
Whether the political will to enforce bans on cellphone use while driving exists is another matter.
Bans on text messaging while driving illustrate the challenge. Nineteen states and the District have banned it, but in four of those states, Virginia, New York, Washington and Louisiana, the laws require that an officer have some other primary reason for stopping a vehicle.
"That makes it impossible for police to enforce it effectively," said Illinois state Sen. John J. Cullerton (D), a leading traffic safety advocate. "It's a convenient way to compromise and get bills passed in state legislatures."

Hurley put it more bluntly:
"Secondary enforcement is a huge problem," he said. "It is a sign of weak politicians. It saves very few lives."
Maryland bans drivers sending text messages but allows drivers to read them or enter phone numbers in their cellphones. Virginians stopped by police are off the hook if they say they were dialing a phone number or using a GPS device on their phone.
The challenge of legislating cellphone use by drivers is greater than similar auto safety initiatives such as those in favor of seat belts and child car seat use or against drunken driving. In each of those instances, the public safety issue was more clearly understood and, ultimately, enforcement led drivers to comply.
Hurley, who spent 21 years with the National Safety Council before joining MADD, has been involved with virtually all major traffic safety campaigns for more than three decades.
His experience suggests that new laws and educational campaigns, such as trumpeting the startling numbers the National Safety Council released Tuesday, don't provide sufficient incentive for most drivers to change their habits.
"A lot of goodwill is created, and people die just the same," he said. "Education alone is a proven failure. Education and enforcement are a success."
He cites seat belt use as an example. The "Buckle Up for Safety" campaign was well received, but only 13 percent of drivers complied. The "Click It or Ticket" campaign has been much more effective, he said.
Public campaigns featuring mothers whose children died in crashes where drinking was a factor caught public attention, but the Operation Strikeforce efforts that employed sobriety checkpoints hammered home the consequences of drunken driving.

Hurley said the best first step for FocusDriven will be to get employers to ban use of text messaging and cellphones when driving. President Obama last year imposed a texting ban on all federal employees while using government vehicles or using government-issued phones in their own vehicles.

Follically Challenged
5,373 Posts
28% ?? that is coming from,...washingtonpost.com ?

I believe the percentage to be higher, ya can't believe nothing coming out of washington theez dayz,...
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"Wizards begin as blacksmiths"
6,256 Posts
Just saw a bad one in front of my daughter's high school. Almost be willing to bet my next paycheck (well maybe just lunch) that it involved a kid, a cell phone and texting or talking. Couldn't really look at the people involved because I was trying to get through the traffic without getting hit by people texting and trying to dodge the debris in the road.

542 Posts
This "statistic" sounds familiar. Haven't we been hearing about 28% of all acidents being "alcohol related"? I guess the moral of this is dont drink and use the cell phone while driving. :headknock

3,164 Posts
Scary stuff for sure. Texting while driving is absolutely dangerous, or at least "less safe" than not texting and driving. But.....mposing laws to stop it can send us down a slippery slope, in my opinion.
If texting while driving is outlawed, shouldn't use of GPS units while driving be outlawed as well? Or changing the station on your stereo for that matter.
If talking on a mobile phone while using a hands free device is just as dangerous as a traditional handset, how about holding a conversation with a person in the passenger seat?

I think it is important to really take a look at the statistic.
"Twenty-eight percent of traffic accidents occur when people talk on cellphones or send text messages while driving"

What percentage of time is spent on the phone by all drivers? If 28% of drivers use their phone when driving, then the 28% means nothing.
In what percentage of the 28% mentioned was the driver with the phone at fault?
In what percentage of the 28% mentioned were road conditions unsafe for driving?
In what percentage of the 28% mentioned involved alcohol or drugs?

1,385 Posts
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

I am laughing about some of these statistics. Someone sent me an email about this and I didn't believe him at first. But I checked and find an amazing coincidence. The numbers for cell phone usage and accidents are almost the exact same numbers quoted years ago for different reasons:

(1) Eating/Drinking while driving, (2) Listen to music/personal music players while driving.

It's almost like they took the numbers and studies verbatim and just swapped out the "offense".

Don't get me wrong - I think texting is a problem and talking on the phone can be just as bad for some. And I would be lying if I said there hasn't been a time or two when I spilled hot coffee in my lap or had a burger explode on me didn't impact my driving. And I admit to talking on my phone with my headset while driving regularly. And I've even texted a quick "yes" or "no" or "will call you" here and there on the highway on long trips.

If we are driving, we should focus on driving and nothing else - that's the theory anyway and I support that.

I'm just saying the statistics are a bit coincidental - and seem to indicate that if we aren't texting, we're talking, or eating/drinking, or finding something else to do while driving that distracts us. What funny birds we are!

Now if they REALLY wanted to stop phone usage when driving - the automakers could do it very, very easily. A device could be installed (and pretty cheaply too!) that would disrupt cell usage. They do the same thing in jails and prisons. The problem is that the powers that be WANT us to have celluar communications in our vehicles. Now we have OnStar, but expect in the next 2 years you will see automanufactors put more and more telecommunications devices in the car as standard equipment. I can envision very easily a "OnStar" type device that ties directly into the dealership/service center. When there's a problem with your car, you'll simply PHONE IT IN. There will eventually be enough sensors in your car to determine many of the common issues - pollution control, brakes, engine issues, A/C, etc. Most problems will be diagnosed over the phone and you will then be instructed where/when to take your car for service.

Law enforcement will have access to this network and be able to shut down your vehicle remotely (OnStar already does this) to stop police chases - they will even keep your car "locked" until you can be apprended. Even things like inspection stickers and registration infomatrion will be available via tele-connection and you'll simply be sent a violation when the chip donotes a violation. Cops stopping you on the road will be able to "plug in" to your vehicle history to confirm speeding violations. I can even envision no cop will be neccessary. Cities/highways will have "speed check bots" that if you pass the checkpoint while speeding, a message will be sent to your dash saying "Speed Violation" and a ticket, along with the "electronic" proof sent to you and copied to the court.

It's coming folks - count on it.

Sorry...I got a bit off topic...

3,234 Posts
Scary stuff indeed. Ya know though, I always here about the youngn's getting themselves in trouble driving while texting or talking on their phone. Do any of you live near a retirement community? Suncity is not too far... You should see some of the Caddy drivers trying to drive and talk\text at the same time. Ain't purdy. :D

We don't need another law to add to the books we just need to enforce the laws we already have - Wreckless Driving comes to mind.

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