Editorial: Driving us crazy

Statistics point out dangers of using cell phone, texting while behind wheel
Jan. 30, 2013 @ 12:03 AM

Tennessee, like many states, has a law against texting while driving, but we do not have a law that bans the use of cellular telephones while behind the wheel. That’s going to be a tough sell to people that somehow feel they have to be connected to others at all times, regardless of what they are doing.

Some new findings may give pause to such risky behavior. Motorists who use cell phones while driving are more likely to engage in additional dangerous behaviors such as speeding, driving drowsy, driving without a safety belt and sending texts or emails, according to a survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Additionally, nearly seven in 10 licensed drivers reported talking on a cell phone while driving within the last month despite the fact that nearly 90 percent believe other drivers using cell phones are a threat to their personal safety.

That’s an odd and disturbing statistic. People believe it’s OK for them to talk on the phone while driving, but not for others. It’s reminiscent of the warped thinking that allows someone who has been driving to get behind the wheel even though he or she knows it’s wrong, and wouldn’t want anybody else driving while impaired.

“Ninety percent of respondents believe that distracted driving is a somewhat or much bigger problem today than it was three years ago, yet they themselves continue to engage in the same activities,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “More work clearly is needed to educate motorists on the risks associated with using a cell phone while driving, especially given that most Americans believe this problem is becoming worse.”

Motorists who fairly often or regularly used their cell phones over the last month also reported that they engaged in additional risky behaviors. The research shows:

- 65 percent also reported speeding

- 44 percent also reported driving while drowsy

- 53 percent also reported sending a text or email

- 29 percent also drove without a safety belt

Conversely, drivers that reported never using a cell phone were much less likely to report additional risky behaviors.

Despite the widespread disapproval of texting and emailing while driving (95 percent oppose it), more than one in four licensed drivers reported sending a text or email at least once in the past 30 days, and more than one-third said they read a text or email while driving. Ouch!

Come on, drivers. Be responsible. Don’t engage in behavior you wouldn’t want other drivers doing. The time to express regret is not after a tragedy.