December 15, 2005

Driver Cell Phone Use Still Increasing

WASHINGTON -- The number of people who use their cell phones while driving continued to increase in 2005, according to a government survey released on Thursday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey found that 974,000 vehicles - or 10 percent of those on the road during the day - are driven by someone using either a handheld or hands-free phone.

The figure is up from 8 percent in 2004. And the use of cell phones increased among both young and old drivers in 2005, and among both men and women, the survey found.

Six percent use handheld devices to their ear, according to the 2005 survey. Another 4 percent use hands-free devices, the survey concluded.

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the District of Columbia are the only jurisdictions that ban the use of hand-held phones while driving, NHTSA said. Several other states impose restrictions on the practice.

Both NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board have supported the idea of passing state laws to ban those with learners permits from using cell phones or other wireless devices while behind the wheel.

However, NHTSA believes there would be no safety benefit from requiring the use of hands-free devices because the agency says the technology is not any safer to use while driving.