What About Other Driving Distractions?-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What About Other Driving Distractions?

Most studies of cell phone use while driving lead to the conclusion that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous.  This leads many to ask the legitimate question, “Why focus on cell phones?  What about other distractions, too?”

The answer to that is that all driver distractions are not the same, and that the emphasis on ending cell phone use while driving is significant for several reasons.

The first of these is risk.  The National Safety Council has determined that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to be involved in an accident as they would be if they were not on the phone, and there is no difference between handheld and hands-free phone use.

Frequency is also a factor.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 9% of all drivers are talking on a cell phone at any given daylight moment, far more than drivers eating, applying makeup, or reaching into the back seat.

A third factor is prevalence.  The AAA Foundation 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index reports that nearly 70% of drivers admit that they have talked on their cell phone while driving in the past month, and one in three say they do so regularly.

So, while cell phone use may not be the most dangerous distraction when taken by itself, the combination of risk, frequency, and prevalence makes it more clear why putting an end to this deadly practice is so important. 

Drivers who use their cell phones and are involved in an accident really believe they can use their phones safely.  They didn’t plan on injuring themselves or someone else.  But it happens far too often.  Go to www. nsc.org/pledge and take the pledge to drive cell free.

By: Jim Gindlesperger, jg57@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-5613