Drivers know dangers of distracted driving but continue to use phones on the road

In recent years there may seem to be more drunken drivers on the road near Lake Charles, Louisiana than before. But, those drunken drivers are not under the influence of alcohol. Rather those drivers are under the influence of their cellphones. The majority of Americans know distracted driving causes car accidents, but drivers in Louisiana and elsewhere continue to use their cellphones while behind the wheel.

A survey conducted on the behalf of the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 87 percent of participants were in favor of laws that prohibit texting and driving. In addition, seventy percent were in favor of laws that ban handheld phone use behind the wheel and fifty percent were in favor of completely banning cellphone use while driving. Despite those responses, the respondents also admitted to distracted driving behaviors.

More than one-third of respondents admitted to reading or sending a text message while driving within the last month. Two-thirds of respondents admitted to talking on the phone while behind the wheel at least once during the last month. Finally, nearly 33 percent of drivers admitted to using their cellphone while driving every day.

Clearly, there is a contradiction to what American drivers feel is dangerous and what American drivers actually do. The result is not so surprising especially to those who worked on campaigns against drunken driving and campaigns that advocated seat belt use. Years if not decades of effort were devoted to both of those undertakings before social norms were changed.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration nearly 5,500 people were killed by distracted driving and almost 450,000 were injured by distracted drivers in 2009.

Source: The Washington Post, “Driver survey shows heavy cellphone use,” Ashley Halsey III, October 4, 2011

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