Cell Phones and Driving

 

This weekend, a nine-year-old boy was killed in an auto accident in southeastern Colorado after his father bent down to answer a cell phone. The boy’s father lost control of the SUV he was driving and rolled the vehicle. The nine-year-old was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected.

It’s tragic that a nine-year-old was killed in an auto accident, but the given cause is becoming more prominent. It is cases like this that have caused states to pass laws aimed at limiting or banning cell phone usage and driving. The studies are out and there is science behind these laws, if the statistics aren’t enough.

Statistics

A University of Utah study found drivers speaking on even a headset while they are driving are more likely to crash than if they were speaking to someone sitting in the car next to them. The head of this study, Professor David Sawyer, says that statistics seem to show driving while speaking on a cell phone is just as dangerous as driving drunk. The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimates that around six percent of all traffic accidents are caused by someone using a cell phone while they are driving. These accidents result in hundreds of thousands of injuries and an estimated 2,600 deaths per year. Elderly and young, inexperienced drivers are more likely to have accidents while they are on a cell phone. Other statistics show that drivers speaking on cell phones are four times as likely to be involved in an accident, and Nationwide Insurance conducted a survey in which 45 percent of drivers claim they were hit or almost hit by someone talking on their cell phone.

While most people should know by now that using a hand-held cell phone while driving is dangerous, many still use them. Because there are an estimated 270 million cell phone subscribers in the US, and many of these subscribers drive, the chances of being involved in an accident have gone up significantly since the days when cell phones were only used by the well off.

Legislation

Because research into hands-free devices and accidents is still limited, many states have refused to legislate cell phone bans, even as those in the cell phone industry are concerned about the number of accidents and their product. Furthermore, many experts don’t feel this needs to be legislated; people merely need to be educated. However, even then, with bans, limits, and education, enforcement may still be difficult. This is where private industry has begun to step into the debate.

Technology

Hands-free devices have been marketed since the late 1990s, and Verizon Wireless was one of the first companies to champion this kind of technology. Since then, they have gotten onboard with banning text-messaging while driving. A Canadian company called Aegis Mobility has gone a step further and is putting technology into cell phones called DriveAssist. DriveAssist manages all incoming and outgoing calls, as well as texts and email messages. Callers will receive a message that the person they are trying to contact is driving. However, if there is an emergency, then the driver will be alerted to pull over and use their phone.

DriveAssist seems to have to assume that it is usually the person reaching for a phone that has rung that may be responsible for auto accidents. To a degree, they may be correct. People tend to forget that the phone is there for our convenience, and feel that when it rings, we need to answer it. However, many people may still like to talk while they are driving because it gives them some time to catch up with family and friends that they do not otherwise have. Still, there are very few conversations that are worth causing an auto accident for, much less die because of.