Drivers Know Cellphone Use Dangerous, but Drive and Phone Anyway

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A survey released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that while most drivers understood the dangers of using electronic devices while behind the wheel, a large percentage used them anyway.

According to the survey, released as part of the NHTSA's recognition of April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, approximately 660,000 drivers used cellphones or manipulated electronic devices while driving during daylight hours, numbers that have held steady since 2010.

While fiddling with a stereo or iPod is dangerous and distracting while driving, according to the NHTSA, texting and hand-held cellphone use were considered more dangerous and have garnered more attention from recent surveys and studies.

The NHTSA survey also found that 74 percent of drivers support a ban on hand-held cellphone use, while 94 percent believe texting while driving should be outlawed. On average, these drivers believed the fines for these offenses should be at least $200, according to the report.

Texting while driving is currently outlawed in 39 states and the District of Columbia (see map below). Hand-held cellphone use is outlawed in 10 states, and the District of Columbia.

Wireless provider AT&T released a texting while driving survey of its own last month. Ninety-eight percent of the drivers it polled also said they understood the dangers of texting while driving.

Despite the fact that almost all drivers surveyed by AT&T said texting and driving was dangerous, 43 percent of teenage drivers said they still did it, while 49 percent of older commuters admitted the same.

"Many drivers see distracted driving as risky when other drivers do it, but do not recognize how their own driving deteriorates," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement. "I urge all motorists to use common sense and keep their attention focused solely on the task of safely driving."

No doubt, some new gadgets and technologies have become distractions, making it more difficult for drivers to focus on the road. But innovation, rather than simply cutting back on device usage, can possibly be the fix to the problem.

States that have outlawed hand-held cellphone use do allow other hands-free methods of talking, whether it be a speakerphone, voice activated system or an in-ear Bluetooth or wired headset.

Samsung recently introduced S Voice Drive with its Galaxy S 4 phone. The software allows drivers to do such things as play music and get directions while keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

States That Have Outlawed Texting While Driving (Image credit: Highway Loss Data Institute)

Admittedly, fears that some of the new gadgets will contribute to distracted driving may still be warranted. CNET reported that Google's Glass, for instance, has already been discussed as possibly becoming banned for West Virginia drivers before it's even gone on sale. The futuristic, eye-glass headset computer projects images in front of the eyes, showing directions and notifications. Google Glass also allows users to engage in hands-free video chatting and Internet searching. Talk about distracted driving ...

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