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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Cell phone usage risks go beyond texting and driving


Cell phones and driving don't mix well, even when using hands-free devices.


Technology can help make our lives easier and more connected. However, the downside to technology is drivers may be more distracted behind the wheel than ever before. Technology now allows individuals to make phone calls, dictate texts or emails and update social media while driving – all actions that are proven to increase crash risk.

Other driving distractions exist, but cell phones are a top distraction because so many drivers use them for long periods of time each day. Almost everyone has seen a driver distracted by a cell phone, but when you are the one who is distracted, you often don't realize that driver is you.

Most drivers understand the dangers of texting and driving. But “infotainment” dashboards and hands-free technology usage do not appear to be the safe alternatives many believe them to be.

Consider these sobering statistics regarding cell phone usage:

  • Estimates are 25% of crashes involve cell phones.

  • Distracted drivers miss seeing up to 50% of what is around them, including pedestrians, bicyclists, traffic signs and other vehicles.

  • 80% of drivers mistakenly believe hands-free devices are safer than handheld. However, drivers using handheld or hands-free phones are four times as likely to crash.

  • More than 30 studies show hands-free devices don’t make drivers any safer, as the brain remains distracted by the conversation.

  • Fifty-three percent of drivers believe if manufacturers put technology dashboards and hands-free features in vehicles, they must be safe. Some state laws are focusing on handheld bans and car-makers are putting hands-free technology in vehicles, many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device. But studies do not bear this out.

  • Studies show using voice-to-text is even more distracting than texting by hand.

  • What about when stopped at a traffic signal? Just because your car is stopped doesn’t mean it’s a good time to use a cell phone. Drivers stay distracted for around 30 seconds after finishing a call, sending a text or using a dashboard system.

Technology, including cell phones, has changed lives, in many ways for the better. However, cell phones and driving don’t mix. Thousands have died in crashes involving cell phone usage. There really is no completely safe way to drive and use a cell phone.Use driving as a time to disconnect from your devices, be safe and remember: Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, mind on driving.

SOURCES: National Safety Council and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)



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