Cell Phones and Driving: Research Update December, 2008 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
A growing body of research suggests that using a mobile telephone while driving increases a driver's risk of being involved in a crash. Studies that have analyzed the cell phone records of crash-involved drivers have reported that using a cell phone while driving is associated with roughly a quadrupling of crash risk. Studies using driving simulators have also found that cell phone use significantly impairs several aspects of driving performance, principally reaction time. Studies comparing the risks associated with using hand-held and hands-free cell phones while driving have found them indistinguishable-both increase risk. Meanwhile, available data shows that the number of cell phone subscribers, and the proportion of drivers using cell phones, is increasing.
This research update presents new data from the AAA Foundation's Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationally-representative telephone survey of the American public, on drivers' cell phone use and their attitudes toward distracted driving, as well as data on driver cell phone use from a recent omnibus survey conducted for the AAA Foundation.
Results show that over half of U.S. drivers report having used a cell phone while driving in the past 30 days, and one in seven even admits to text messaging while driving. Young drivers were found to be overwhelmingly more likely than older drivers to text message, and somewhat more likely to talk on cell phones while driving; however, the proportion of drivers aged 35 to 44 who report talking on cell phones while driving is not significantly lower than the proportion of drivers aged 18 to 24 who report doing so. Higher levels of education were also found to be associated with higher levels of cell phone use and text messaging while driving.
A substantial proportion of the American public believes that drivers using cell phones are a serious traffic safety problem and that it is unacceptable to use a cell phone while driving. Respondents who express negative attitudes toward cell phone use while driving were found to be somewhat less likely to use cell phones while driving; however, a substantial proportion of respondents who express negative attitudes toward using a cell phone while driving still admit doing so at least occasionally. About two- thirds of drivers who use cell phones while driving believe that it is safer to talk on a hands-free cell phone than on a hand-held cell phone; however, the overwhelming majority of available evidence suggests that it is not.