Cell Phone Driving Dangerous: We Know, Don’t Care
The release for a new Harris Poll is titled “Large Majority of Drivers Who Own Cell Phones Use Them While Driving Even Though They Know This Is Dangerous.” The key findings:
- 72% of those who drive and own cell phones say they use them to talk while they are driving;
- A quarter of drivers with cell phones report using them to send or receive text messages while driving, although a large majority (74%) does not.
- Most of these people (66%) say they usually use hand-held rather than handsfree telephones to talk;
- Even in states that have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, half (49%) of cell phone users use hand-held, rather than hands-free, phones;
- Only 2% of those who use cell phones while driving believe this is not dangerous at all. Most believe it is very dangerous (26%), dangerous (24%) or somewhat dangerous (33%);
- A 71% majority of those who use cell phones while driving believes that handsfree cell phones are safer than hand-held phones (even though some research suggest otherwise);
- Younger drivers are more likely than older drivers to talk on the phone while driving. Most (58%) “Matures” (people older than Baby Boomers, currently aged 64 or over) who drive and own cell phones say they do not use their cell phones while driving; and,
Andrew Malcolm quips, “So much for legislating chatter” and snarks “Prohibition laws caused the entire nation to stop drinking alcoholic beverages so successfully.” And, indeed, the two may be comparable in that it’s very hard to stop people from doing what they want to do. Even good citizens routinely exceed the speed limit and jaywalk, for example, because they (er, we) trust our own judgment and value our own convenience.
He also cites a 2003 Harvard study showing that “cellphone use contributed to 6% of all U.S. crashes, or 636,000 collisions, 330,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths annually.” From this, he concludes, “Put another way, the risk center numbers would tell determined cellphone drivers that if they’re ever in an automobile accident, there’s a 94% chance it won’t have anything to do with their phone. Better odds than the lottery.”
Certainly, the odds of a particular cell phone conversation resulting in a serious accident are virtually nil. The problem, of course, is that having most drivers on the road — and especially teens, the least safe among them — yapping on their phones increases everyone else’s risks. And, while you or I may be able to successfully drive while engaging in a conversation via our mobiles, some percentage of the other drivers (in my experience, a number approaching 100%) are much less intelligent.
I’m not at all sure what the solution is. The poll already demonstrates that people are aware of the danger; they merely discount it. So education isn’t the likely solution. Similarly, the fact that it’s illegal doesn’t seem to make much difference; people rationally conclude that the odds of getting caught are nil. And, frankly, I don’t want an army of cops out there peering into our windows.
So this may just be one of those dangers of living that we’ll have to cope with.
Photo by Flickr user Ryan Harvey under Creative Commons license.