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New Data Shows Cell Phone Use Contributing To Car Wrecks And Wrongful Deaths

Yesterday’s New York Times broke a story that two public interest groups had obtained research and studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that document the dangers of cell phone use while driving. Apparently the documents and a requested study of 10,000 drivers were all shelved because the NHTSA was more worried about politics than the safety of our drivers.

The research was alarming, finding that a motorist talking on a cell phone was four times as likely to be involved in a crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.

Overall, the documents concluded that cell phone use while driving was responsible for 955 fatalities per year and 240,000 car wrecks per year.

And using hands-free devices didn’t help much. One study conducted in conjunction with Virginia Tech found that drivers using a hand-held device were 1.3 times more likely to become involved in an auto accident and at three times the risk when dialing compared to other drivers. In fact, the agency had prepared a letter to the governors of each state warning them of the dangers of even using hands-free devices.

Despite these dangers, Texas has few regulations to minimize these risks of injuries. During the last legislative session, HB 55 was passed, and it prohibits the use of a “wireless communication device” in a school zone unless the vehicle is stopped or the device is hands-free. The law goes into effect on September 1, 2009. Section 545.424 of the Transportation Code also prohibits a driver under 18, during the first six months of having his or her license, from driving while using a “wireless communication device.” Finally, section 545.425 of the Transportation Code prevents a bus driver who is carrying a minor passenger from using a “wireless communication device.”

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