We’ve been reading about distracted driving for a while now and we know that using a cell phone behind the wheel is dangerous.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that each day in the U.S., about 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that in 2016 alone, 3,450 people were killed by distracted driving.
There have been debates, however, over just how dangerous certain activities are.
In many states, for example, it’s legal to talk on a phone if using a hands-free device. However, a recent AAA study questions that practice. According to their findings, drivers who talk on a cell phone while behind the wheel are up to four times as likely to be involved in a crash—whether they’re using a hands-free device or not.
AAA Study Finds Cell Phone Use Increases Risk of Crashing
For the study, researchers used data from the Second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study, which included data from 3,593 drivers who drove while monitored by in-vehicle video and other data-collection equipment between October 2010 and December 2013.
They also compared a driver’s cell phone use in the six seconds prior to the crash with his or her use under normal driving conditions within three months of the crash.
They ended up with 566 crashes matched to 1,749 segments of ordinary driving. Overall, they found that tasks involving both looking and manipulating the phone, like texting, were associated with a significantly increased crash risk. More specifically:
- Drivers talking on a cell phone are up to four times more likely to be in a crash than those not using their phones, whether they’re using hands-free or not.
- Drivers using phones to text or surf the Internet, among other uses, are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash than those not using their phones.
AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley stated that though he believes everyone appreciates the danger, they believe that they will be safe:
“That so many drivers regularly engage in these deadly behaviors is evidence of an ‘It could never happen to me’ mindset. Today’s report should make one thing clear: Motorists are putting themselves, other road users, pedestrians, and property at significant risk every time they pick up the phone while driving.”
In-Vehicle Systems May be Just as Dangerous
The AAA also put out a study last year in which they reported that cell phones aren’t the only problem. New, in-dashboard infotainment systems also take driver’s eyes and attention off the road in potentially dangerous ways.
According to their findings, drivers using these technologies were visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds. They added that it takes only two seconds to double the risk of a crash.
The researchers examined systems in 30 new 2017 vehicles and found that programming a GPS or other navigational aid was the most dangerous, taking an average of 40 seconds to complete.