Cell Phones and Driving

Today, it is a common sight to see someone motoring down the highway occasionally gesturing with one hand and holding a cell phone in the other. It doesn't take an engineer to determine that means there may be no hands on the wheel, and even when the driver has one hand grasping the wheel, his or her attention is probably not focused on driving. Growing evidence shows that motorists talking on cell phones are involved in accidents at a higher rate than those who do not use cell phones when they drive. More than 20 states are collecting information on the distraction created by using a cell phone while driving.

"Driver inattention" is the most frequently identified factor among cell phone users. It represents 17% of the factors for cell phone users as compared to only 9% for all crash-involved drivers. The next most frequently noted conditions are "failure to yield" and "following too closely". 

There is a definite trend to make the use of cell phones while driving illegal. One concern is the need for consistent laws from state to state. National organizations are encouraging additional data gathering, under specific guidelines, to support such legislation. New York State is the first state to enact restrictions, but in some states, individual counties have set up their own regulations. A number of corporations have established guidelines for employees driving company vehicles, forbidding the use of cell phone while driving. 

The Oklahoma legislature has prevented local jurisdiction from enacting cell phone ordinances, apparently to preserve consistency in restrictions, across the state, when and if such legislation is passed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that, while most people think accidents occur when a driver is dialing or holding the phone, research suggests that the general distraction of being engaged in conversation is far more often to blame. Therefore, banning hand-held cell phone but allowing hands-free devices would be ineffective.

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