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Driving Distractions: An Investigation of the Safety Implications of Using Cellular Telephones While Operating a Motor Vehicle Reena Shah- Johns Hopkins University Anika Thomas- Morgan State University Lisa Wilson- UMBC

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Driving Distractions: An Investigation of the Safety Implications of Using Cellular Telephones While Operating a Motor Vehicle

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Driving Distractions: An Investigation of the Safety Implications of Using Cellular Telephones While Operating a Motor Vehicle

Reena Shah- Johns Hopkins University

Anika Thomas- Morgan State University

Lisa Wilson- UMBC


As of July 25, 2001 there are currently 119,073,285 Wireless Subscribers in the US.


Estimated Number of Cellular Telephone Subscribers For The Period January 1985 to December 2000


It’s a matter of dollars and sense !

Today, the average monthly subscriber bill is half of what it was in 1987, making it far more affordable for ANYONE to own a cell phone


Average Monthly Subscriber Bill For The Period December 1987 to December 2000


61 percent of calls made by subscribers are of a personal nature

People are using their Cell Phones to Keep in Touch with Loved Ones


Business accounts for only 21 percent of all calls made


Many cell phone owners purchased their phones solely for the SAFETY benefits that having a ready means of Communication provides


Safety Benefits include:

  • Being able to call for help if vehicle is disabled

  • Calling for help in a Medical Emergency

  • Alerting authorities of hazardous road conditions

  • Obtaining directions when lost

  • Alerting authorities of crimes in progress


Reasons for Concern

Every year 91 million people use their cell phones while driving


Of these, 18 million drivers use their phones on each trip


The NHTSA estimates that at any given moment, there are half a million drivers who are talking on hand-held cellular phones


What Preliminary Studies have Revealed

  • Talking on a cell phone can impair ability to adjust speed due to changes in overall traffic speed

  • Complex conversation leads to increased reaction time

  • Risk of having an accident increases by as much as four times when talking on a cell phone


HOWEVER...

Studies have not been widespread enough to provide evidence that proves without a doubt that using a cell phone increasesone’s risk of being in an accident...


Evidence does indicate that talking a cell phone while driving may impair driving ability


BUT

One thing everyone can agree on:

Talking on a cellular phone while driving vehicle can't make you a better driver!


Improving Data Collection

This is the first step in determining whether using Cell Phones while driving presents a hazard to Maryland’s drivers


Police Crash Reports

should include information on whether a Cell Phone played a role in the accident


Statistical Data about Cell Phone Involvement in accidents can be used in creating Legislature that ensures safe driving conditions for all


Possible Alternatives which can be Implemented to Lower the Risk of a Vehicular Accident while Talking on a Cell Phone

  • Total ban on cellular telephone use in motor vehicles

  • Technology Evaluation and Determination of Safer Alternatives for cell phone use in motor vehicles

  • Enforcement of Existing Reckless Driving/ Driver Inattention Laws; and imposing Harsher Penalties

  • Advocating Consumer Education to increase public awareness

  • Ban or limit the use of cellular phones for young drivers who are already have a higher accident risk


1. Total Ban

  • According to the New England Journal of Medicine, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death in North America

  • They account for a fatality every 10 minutes

  • The study found that error on the part of drivers contributes to over 90 percent of occurrences of accidents

  • Driver error is usually a result of driver distraction


This is the only foolproof solution to eliminate cellular phones as a distraction to drivers.

  • A cellular telephone can impair many aspects of driving performance, but most importantly, a driver’s attention to the road

  • Reaction time is slowed

  • When caught in a conversation, a driver’s situational awareness and judgement are impeded

  • Flexibility and the ability to maneuver a turn, take an evasive action, or avoid a driver who has cut into your lane is reduced


Talking on a cell phone versus other distractions

  • The difference lies in that the driver’s reaction time is impeded when talking on the phone and situational awareness is diverted

  • Drivers react significantly slower to an unexpected event during a phone conversation and are unaware of traffic movements around them

  • Passengers in the car often alert drivers to dangerous situations, in sharp contrast to a person at the other end of the cellular phone who may not even be aware that the caller is driving and therefore will not react to a change in driving conditions


The emotional or critical nature of a conversation is especially distracting to a driver. They can become lost in thought and may drift off the road.

It is clear that talking on the phone while driving drags a driver away from the immediate surroundings


2. Technology Evaluation and Determination of Safer Alternatives for Cell Phone Use in Motor Vehicles

  • With the evolution of small, hand-held cellular telephones, there has been increasing concern regarding the ability of a driver to operate a vehicle safely with one hand, while holding and manipulating the phone with the other

  • Wireless companies have come up with many innovative solutions to minimize the effects of driving and talking on a cell phone.


Hands-Free Technology

  • AT&T Wireless is pressing cell phone makers to include "ear buds," receivers that fit into the ear and dangle a microphone, with every phone they sell.

  • Verizon Wireless is requiring phone manufacturers to include built-in speakerphones and voice-activated dialing by 2002


  • Sprint PCS already offers Voice Command, which lets callers recite the number they want to reach

  • Advocating new hands-free technology as a safer alternative to hands held phones would minimize driver distraction caused by manipulating a cell phone


3. Enforcing Existing Laws and Increasing Penalties to Ensure Safer Driving Habits

  • Maryland has laws about reckless and negligent driving

  • Punishment is a notoriously poor motivator unless it is swift, reasonably severe, and very certain

  • Enforcement of negligent and reckless driving does not currently fulfill any of these three criteria


4. Consumer Education

  • There is widespread agreement that a public education campaign should be undertaken which addresses the implications of driving while talking on a cellular phone

  • The distraction potential of cellular phones may be minimized if users are aware of the hazards and use cellular technology wisely


Employers Should Play an Important Role in Education

  • Workers are more likely to die from traffic accidents than any other job hazard

  • Business calls are more likely to distract drivers than simple conversations

  • Employers who allow their employees to use their cellular phones while driving may be held liable for a crash


More Than Consumer Education is Necessary

Past experiences with drunk driving and seat belts have shown that education alone does not substantially alter a driver’s behavior


5. Young Drivers

  • Young drivers are especially vulnerable to being in a vehicular accident

  • Distractions can be dangerous for all drivers. They are an outright hazard for young drivers

  • Young drivers are not motivated to avoid risks and lack the experience to effective gauge risky driver behavior

  • Maryland has been a leader in enacting legislation to protect its young drivers


  • Legislation should be considered to ban or limit the use of cell phones in moving vehicles operated by young drivers


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