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GHSA Report Shows Hands-Free Cell Use Just as Risky as Hand-Held Cell Use

July 19, 2011

WASHINGTON – The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has released an overview that summarizes research from 350 scientific papers published during the last 11 years (2000 – 2011). Some of the key findings from the report include statistics on how often drivers are distracted and what the major factors distracting them actually are.

In a study, noted in the report, where researchers observed 100 drivers continually for one year found that drivers were distracted between one-quarter and one-half of the time. In other recent surveys noted in the report, two-thirds of all drivers reported using a cell phone while driving, with one-third of drivers surveyed reporting using a cell phone on a routine basis. In studies done during daylight hours in 2009, 7-10 percent of all drivers used a cell phone.

In crash-related data in the report, at least one driver involved in a crash was distracted in 15-30 percent of crashes.

When it comes to texting, in a survey one-eighth of all drivers reported texting while driving. In 2009, fewer than 1 percent of drivers observed sent text messages while driving.

Some of the conclusions in the report note that although cell phone use increases the risk of the crash, there is currently no consensus on the extent of the increase. Hands-free cell phone use has not been demonstrated to be less risky than hand-held use, and texting likely increases crash risk more than phone use of a cell phone.

The report also noted that laws banning hand-held use of cell phones cut their use in half when the laws were first implemented. Although cell phone use increased after the laws were implemented, the GHSA study found that some of the laws did have a long-term effect on hand-held cell phone use.

The GHSA study also covered whether companies have established and implemented policies for their employees regarding cell phone use and distracted driving in general. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) reported that, out of the 4,690 public- and private-sector organizations that downloaded the 2010 NETS Drive Safety at Work Week campaign materials, 3,067 have a cell phone policy in place. Out of that group, 1,152 banned any use of cell phones while driving, and another 1,915  prohibit hand-held use of cell phones. Lastly, another 1,062 organizations stated they plan to implement a policy in 2011, according to the GHSA.

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