Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cell Phone Use While Driving Increases

NHTSA - Driver Cell Phone Use in 2004

According to a newly released study by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a record high 5% of all drivers use a handheld cell phone while driving during daytime hours. This is up from 4% in 2002 and 3% in 2000. Use is highest among young drivers, age 16 to 24. This age group, who has less experience behind the wheel under all circumstances, is estimated to have approximately 8% of drivers using a hand held cell phone while driving. Usage is lowest in those motorists 70 and above. I wonder whether older drivers are less likely to own/use cellphones or if they prefer to keep their full attention on their driving.

Use of hand held phones appears to be lowest in the Northeast. This may be because there are laws in New York and New Jersey requiring use of a hands free device when talking and driving. Rates of drivers using headsets are much higher in the Northeast, and lowest in the Midwest.

Interestingly, more drivers hold the phone(no pun intended) while driving in urban and rural areas than in the suburbs. Relative percentages of drivers using headsets in these areas are similar, so drivers do not seem to be choosing one over the other. The data is not broken out by urban setting and part of the country. It would be helpful to know whether the urban vs rural breakdown changes in different parts of the country.

Considering that this study suggests that at any moment during the day there are approximately 800,000 motorists who are using a cell phone, either with or without a headset, many of the drivers around you on the road do not have their full attention on their driving. If you are one of those who uses your phone while driving, please think about postponing your call until you have reached your destination and parked. Drive defensively, and then talk on the phone later when you can give your full attention to your conversation.

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