Commuters often multitask while driving around town, whether it’s eating a quick lunch, glancing at a map, or putting on makeup. These activities can cause dangerous distractions to drivers. Among the most common forms of distraction for multitasking drivers is cellular phone use.
As cell phones have become more of necessity in society, drivers are talking on their phones to catch up with family, hear about a friend’s day, or find out if the big business contract went through. Cell phone use is common form of distraction among drivers. With advances in technology, drivers are not only talking on the phone, but also texting and emailing while behind the wheel. Studies and research are surfacing that examine the dangers of cell phone use.
According to research performed by the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis, 6% of traffic accidents nationwide are the result of cell phone use. This equates to 330,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths annually. While many drivers switch to hands-free cell phones in an attempt to driver more safely, research conducted at the University of Utah show absolutely no difference in concentration levels between drivers using hands-free cell phone and drivers using hand-held cell phones.
Text-messaging poses even more of a danger than simply talking on the cell phone. Nearly 50% of drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 text-message while driving. This is extremely dangerous. Studies show that the steering control of a driver who is text-messaging is reduced by 90%. Furthermore, the reaction time of someone texting while driving is reduced 35%, three times more than a drunk driver’s reduced reaction time of 12%.
In Utah, certain legislators are proposing cell phone bans. Representative Phil Riesen is submitting a strict bill that would outlaw all cell phone use while driving, including hands-free headsets, text-messaging, and emailing. His bill makes exceptions for emergency situations and two-way radios. A recent survey conducted by the Salt Lake Tribune found that 80% of Utah residents favor a cell phone ban.
Despite research showing the dangers of cell phone use and overwhelming citizen support for a legislative ban, some Utah lawmakers are opposed to such a bill. Opponents of the bill suggest that such a law would infringe on civil liberties. Other opponents point out that laws already exist which penalize distracted driving.
In what will likely be a heated debate, Utah legislators will soon be deciding the fate of multitasking drivers across the state. Regardless of the legislature’s decision, we would all benefit from turning our cell phones off before we get behind the wheel.