Mobile phone/cellular phone usage has risen sharply in recent years. According to CTIA, The International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry, in February 2009, there were over 272 million wireless subscribers in the US, representing a wireless penetration of over 85% of the US population. The number is up from 194 million in as recently as June 2005, and from 97 million in June 2000.
Cell phones are undoubtedly a part of our culture. And a Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. study released in January 2007 found that 73 percent of drivers surveyed use their cell phones while driving.
Unfortunately, the availability of data for auto accidents involving cell phone use is limited. But with driver inattention being the leading cause of automobile accidents, cell phone use while driving is a recipe for disaster, and we should not be overly surprised by the facts that are available, such as:
- Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: drivers talking on cellular phones are 18 percent slower to react to brake lights and take 17 percent longer to regain the speed they lost after they braked.
- One-fifth of experienced adult drivers and nearly half of drivers aged 18-24 send text messages while driving.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study: motorists who use cellular phones while driving are four times likelier to get into accidents serious enough to injure themselves.
- The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimate: in 2002, approximately 2,600 people died and another 330,000 were injured as a result of using cell phones while driving.
- 21 percent of fatal auto accidents involving teenagers are as a result of using cell phones while driving.
Currently only New York bans using cell phones while driving. Other states have proposed bills that were defeated prior to being passed. And while many suggest that the use of hands-free devices would improve safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been hesitant to endorse hands-free legislation. Their research suggests that the overall distraction of engaging in conversation while driving may contribute to accidents to a greater degree than dialing or holding a cell phone.
It is likely that more legislation to reduce auto accidents caused by cell phone use while driving will eventually become law. But that is no solace for the victims nor the families of those who were involved in such accidents.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident in which the driver (or drivers) were using a cell phone when the accident happened, a qualified personal injury attorney can review your case and apprise you of your rights. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today.