Cellphones, devices biggest driving distractions

Fri Jul 8, 2011 7:08am EDT
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By Molly O'Toole

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Driving distractions, primarily by cellphones and other electronic devices, are associated with up to 25 percent of U.S. car crashes, according to a report released on Thursday.

The study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit group that works to improve traffic safety, assessed research from more than 350 scientific papers published since 2000.

It showed that drivers are distracted up to half the time and that crashes caused by distractions range from minor damage to fatal injury. Cell phone use raises the risk of crashing, but texting is likely to increase crash risk more than cell phone use.

"Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know," GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha said in a statement.

"Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope of the problem and how to effectively address it."

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in 2009 alone, nearly 5,500 fatalities and about half a million injuries resulted from crashes involving a distracted driver.

Deaths due to distracted driving presented 16 percent of traffic fatalities in 2009, a rise from 10 percent in 2005.

"When it comes to distracted driving, one thing is clear: any activities that take extended focus away from the primary task of driving are both unsafe and unwise," Lynda Tran, spokeswoman for the NHTSA, said in a statement.   Continued...

<p>Kumar Chinnaswamy texts on his mobile phone while driving in a simulator at the LG booth during the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Steve Marcus</p>