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Notes From The Road

Cell Phone Crash Stats – New study shows a four-fold increase in accidents while driving and talking on a cell phone.
By Cathy Nikkel/

Hand held Ban?
Calling the IIHS findings a clear message, Lt. Colonel Jim Champagne, Chair of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) said, "Drivers should not use any type of cell phone behind the wheel." He added that policy makers continue to look for the answer to distracted driving, which includes a litany of activities: eating, reading, talking to passengers, watching the countryside or listening to the radio while driving. Champagne cautioned against states enacting laws against hand held cell phones based on the study's findings that hands-free phones were no safer. Such bans, he said, "send an incorrect message to drivers that as long as they are hands-free, they are safe."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had grappled with cell phone distraction for almost a decade. NHTSA says the cognitive distraction of talking on a cell phone keeps a driver's mind off the road and the task at hand. The agency's stated policy is that it is safer to stay off the phone while driving hand held, hands-free or voice-activated. NHTSA estimates that 25 percent of all police-reported crashes are the result of driver distraction.

There is as yet no definitive study that shows activities like eating or drinking a cup of coffee or messing with a CD player to be the same or worse than chatting on a cell phone. However, NHTSA cites one study that compared eating and operating a voice-activated cell phone to continuously operating a CD player, which found that operating the CD player was more distracting than the other activities. In a test track study conducted by NHTSA, the results showed that manual dialing was about as distracting as grooming and/or/eating, but less distracting than reading or changing CDs.

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