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Using Cell Phones While Driving is as Bad as Drunk Driving

According to Distraction.gov, in 2012 alone over 3,300 people were killed from crashes related to distracted driving. 421,000 people were estimated to have been injured from distracted driving related crashes in the same year.  Fatalities happen every single day across America and the cause is distracted driving. This data does show that drivers are safer then they are not distracted:

  • In crashes that were fatal to drivers under the age of 20, 10 percent of the drivers were revealed to have been distracted at the time of impact.
  • Drivers between age 20 and 29 made up the highest portion of distracted drivers that caused fatal crashes, at 27 percent.
  • Texting or using a mobile device while driving is estimated to divert your attention for five seconds at a time. If you are traveling at 55 mph, five seconds is enough time to drive the length of an entire football field.
  • In a given day, an estimated 660,000 drivers will be using their cell phones or a similar electronic device while driving.

Consider the following study by psychologists at the University of Utah.  A virtual-reality car was driven 3 times:

  1. Subject was talking on a cell phone, holding the phone in their hands
  2. Subject used a headset
  3. Subject had a few drinks, enough to put them over the .08% limit.

So how did they do?

The researchers found that when the subjects talked on the phone—either holding it in their hands, or using a headset—they showed the same signs of impairment, and to similar degrees, as when they drove drunk. Here is the actual summary:

We used a high-fidelity driving simulator to compare the performance of cell-phone drivers with drivers who were legally intoxicated from ethanol. When drivers were conversing on either a hand-held or hands-free cell-phone, their reactions were sluggish and they attempted to compensate by driving slower and increasing the following distance from the vehicle immediately in front of them. By contrast, when drivers were legally intoxicated they exhibited a more aggressive driving style, following closer to the vehicle immediately in front of them and applying more force while braking. When controlling for driving difficulty and time on task, cell-phone drivers exhibited greater impairment than intoxicated drivers.

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