Mashable reports: ‘Up to’ 25% of Accidents Are Associated With Gadgets [‘scare quotes’ added by me — dml]:
“A new study from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) highlights the impact that cellphones and other gadgets can have on car crashes. According to the study, as many as 25% of U.S. car crashes are associated with drivers distracted by a cellphone or gadget.
Produced using a grant from State Farm, the GHSA report, titled Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do [PDF] looks at the main external driver distractions. Not surprisingly, talking on cellphones, fiddling with gadgets and texting while driving are some of the most common driver distractions.
After reading the 50-page document, it’s clear that this study contains as many certainties as uncertainties. As GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha says in a statement, “Much of the research is incomplete or contradictory. Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope of the problem and how to effectively address it.”
Still, one certainty is that cellphone usage increases the risk of crashing and texting is likely more dangerous than using a cellphone.
Understanding that drivers who text or talk on the phone are more likely to get into car crashes than those who don’t, what can be done to decrease these distractions?
Unfortunately, the GHSA study is inconclusive on the effects of both texting bans and public service announcement campaigns for distracted driving.
From the report:
Laws banning hand-held cellphone use reduced use by about half when they were first implemented. Hand-held cellphone use increased subsequently but the laws appear to have had some long-term effect.
A high-visibility cellphone and texting law enforcement campaign reduced cellphone use immediately after the campaign. Longer term effects are not yet known.
There is no evidence that cellphone or texting bans have reduced crashes.
Still, the GHSA encourages states to pass more bans of driving while texting and while talking on cellphones — hands-free or not.
The headline number seems far too high to me, but if even close to true, imagine the progress we would have made on fatalities if we were as gadgetless as we were about 15 years ago. (I know, crashes != fatalities). A 25% reduction would amount to about 100,000 fatalities over a decade. Of course cell phones save lives too, due to much faster response rates. All in all, one more reason to take the driver out of the loop and legalize robot cars.