April 8, 2013
Bans Not Working, Drivers Continuing To Use Mobile Phones
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Despite bans put in place to discourage the practice, people are continuing to use their mobile handsets while behind the wheel, according to the results of a new survey from the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released last Friday.
Despite the continued warnings that distracted driving can lead to crashes, injuries and death, many Americans choose to avoid those warnings and continue to use electronic devices while behind the wheel.
The new study, which included statistics from the 2012 Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors Survey and the 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey on Driver Electronics Use, as well as the 2011 Distraction Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data, was released in conjunction with the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. All three reports are further being highlighted in the premier issue of the NHTSA´s “Safety 1N NUM3ERS” online monthly auto safety newsletter.
“Distracted driving is a serious and deadly epidemic on America's roadways,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. “There is no way to text and drive safely. Powering down your cell phone when you're behind the wheel can save lives — maybe even your own.”
More than 6,000 respondents age 16 and older were interviewed by phone for the National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors. According to the findings, the number of drivers using mobile devices has actually remained steady from 2010 to 2012, and at any given time 660,000 people are using their mobile phones in some way while driving.
Nearly half of the respondents said they would answer an incoming call and one in four drivers are willing to place a call on all, most or some trips.
This comes despite the fact that 39 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands have passed texting bans for all drivers. In addition, 10 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld mobile phones in any form while driving.
Some states have looked at ways to address this issue, including further legislation and increased fines. According to The Los Angeles Times nearly 450,000 convictions were handed out in 2012 to people for violating the state´s laws on distracted driving.
To help combat this problem the state is also observing “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” in conjunction with 225 local law enforcement agencies throughout the state and with the California Highway Patrol. First offenses for using electronic devices whilst driving will cost at least $159, while subsequent offenses will start at $279.
Even with the threat of fines the problem is likely to continue say the experts.
“Many drivers see distracted driving as risky when other drivers do it, but do not recognize how their own driving deteriorates,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “I urge all motorists to use common sense and keep their attention focused solely on the task of safely driving.”
To this end the Department of Transportation recommends that drivers turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive; speak up as a passenger when the driver uses an electronic device while driving; and even offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.