The National Safety Council or NSC has issued a call to motorists, businesses and lawmakers throughout the 50 states to ban the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while motorists’ cars are in motion. A report by the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis says that around 636,000 car accidents happen every year from drivers who talk on their cell phone or who text. Of these auto accidents, around 2,600 involve fatalities and 330,000 involve injuries. “Studies show that driving while talking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash,” said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the NSC. “Driving drunk is also dangerous and against the law. When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It’s time to take the cell phone away.”
There has been recent legislative proposals in Utah that call for the use of hands-free devices while driving. The NSC, however, takes issue with whether these devices actually make driving while on the phone safer than simply putting the phone to the ear. In fact, the NSC cites to our own University of Utah study where researchers showed that talking on one of the many hands-free devices is actually not any safer than talking on a hand-held cell phone. Certainly this study calls into question the effectiveness of pending legislation where hands-free only cell devices are endorsed as a solution to the growing epidemic of cell phone-related Utah car accidents.
The NSC call to action also focuses on things that businesses can do to stem cell and text messaging accidents. It would seem that businesses would be very interested in this proposal since they stand to face big liability issues once the fact finder discovers that their employee was talking on their cell phone or text messaging on company time. Those business that never imposed limitations on cell phone use while driving will be the hardest hit since it is now widely accepted that cell phone and texting while driving can be a huge distraction.
NSC president commented: “Anyone with a busy job knows the temptation to multi-task and stay in touch with the office while driving, believe me, I’ve been there. I didn’t realize how much risk I was taking. Most people don’t. Employers understand how dangerous the behavior is and their potential liability. We are asking all businesses to join us by adopting policies banning calling and texting while driving on the job.”
According to studies by the Insurance Information Institute, a motorists’ ability to operate a vehicle safely is seriously compromised when that motorist is sending or reading a text message or is using their cell phone since motorists not only take their eyes off the road but get intensely involved in their conversations such that they cannot concentrate on the road. A recent survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. shows the magnitude of the problem: 73% of the participants in the study talk on their cell phones while driving.
Text messaging accidents has also become a big problem, especially among teen-aged drivers, since you are combining the inexperience of youth with the highly-distracting activity of text messaging. Nationwide Insurance in their study of January of 2007 found that 19% of motorists admitted to texting while driving. But that was two years ago. I’m sure the percentage is much higher now. Since then, we have learned that Salt Lake is tied for second place in the nation for number of text messages sent and received. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have said that motorists who talk and text while driving are four times more likely to becoming involved in a Utah car accident with injuries than motorists who don’t use these devices.
I do know that in my office we are seeing an increase in the number of Utah car accidents caused by cell phone and/or text messaging use. This includes one of our current clients who was seriously injured when a motorist blew through a red light and hit my client’s car as he was driving through an intersection. This caused his car to spin out of control and strike a pedestrian who was getting ready to cross the street and who was unable to get out of the way quick enough. The woman admitted to police that she had been texting at the time she ran the red light.
Published by: Ron Kramer