With virtually all drivers having cell phones in their cars, many use them while driving. When you are stopped at a red light in town look at the drivers going by. You will see a good percentage of them talking on their cell phones and some texting as well. The use of hand held cell phones while driving has been banned in over 14 states. The National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that distracted driving was reported in auto accidents that killed 3,179 people in 2014. These fatalities accounted for 10% of all traffic accident fatalities in 2014. They also report that in 2014 that 18% of all auto accidents with injuries were caused by a distracted driver. In 2014, 404 people died in fatal auto accidents that involved the use of cell phones and I suspect that may not be the full number.
Because texting requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from a driver, it is the most dangerous form of distracted driving. However just talking on a phone while driving even if it is not hand-held is a danger because it takes attention away from the road. In a recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) study they found that just dialing a cell phone made the risk of a crash or near crash 2.8 times as high as a non-distracted driver. Even talking or listening on a phone makes the risk of an accident or near accident 1.3 times higher than a non-distracted driver. In heavy vehicles or trucks the risk was much higher — dialing a cell phone made the risk of an accident or near accident 5.9 times higher than a non-distracted driver. Texting makes the risk of accident or near accident 23.2 times higher for heavy vehicles or trucks. Clearly any task that takes a driver’s eyes away from the road is most dangerous.
While texting may not be as dangerous as intoxicated driving there are a lot more people texting and using cell phones on a regular basis than those driving intoxicated. Driving is a visual task and non-driving activities that take the driver’s eyes away from the roadway, such as texting and dialing, should always be avoided.
The VTTI study concluded that all cell phone use should be banned for newly licensed teen drivers because they tend to use cell phones more frequently when driving that older drivers. The study showed that teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a wreck or near wreck than adult drivers.
From my practice experience, if a driver runs into the rear of a stopped driver at more than a slow speed during the day in good weather conditions, there is a very good chance that the person was texting or using a cell phone.