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The Problem

The Problem

Drivers on their cell phones, LOOK but don’t SEE

Vision is the most important sense for safe driving. Yet, drivers using hands-free phones (and those using handheld phones) have a tendency to “look at” but not “see” objects. Estimates indicate that drivers using cell phones look but fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment.

Distracted drivers experience what researchers call inattention blindness, similar to that of tunnel vision. Drivers are looking out the windshield, but they do not process everything in the roadway environment that they must know to effectively monitor their surroundings, seek and identify potential hazards, and respond to unexpected situations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that nine percent of all drivers at any given time are using cell phones, and the National Safety Council estimates about one in four motor vehicle crashes involve cell phone use at the time of the crash.


The Rising Public Threat

Cell phone distracted driving has become a serious public health threat. A few states have passed legislation making it illegal to use a handheld cell phone while driving. These laws give the false impression that using a hands-free phone is safe.

Driver distractions have joined alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes. The National Safety Council estimates 21 percent of all crashes in 2010 involved talking on cell phones – accounting for 1.1 million crashes that year. A minimum of three percent of crashes are estimated to involve texting.

Although texting is clearly a serious distraction, NSC data show drivers talking on cell phones are involved in more crashes. More people are talking on cell phones while driving more often, and for greater lengths of time, than they are texting. Thus, in 2010, an estimated minimum of 160,000 crashes involved texting or emailing, versus 1.1 million crashes involving talking on cell phones.


Authorities Have No Way to Tell

Ben and Debbie Lieberman learned the hard way, with their son, Evan, that there is no protocol in place to effectively investigate distracted driving crashes. Going beyond the facts that distracted driving is in fact a rising public health safety issue, there is no way to properly to combat the issue.

Though their own civil lawsuit, they subpoenaed the cellphone records and not only discovered texting activity during that drive, but also, that the phone was still in the car for weeks after the crash - just sitting in a junkyard. The police never looked for the phone nor the phone records; this revelation had to come from my own efforts.

At first they thought it was a faulty investigation but what they surprisingly discovered was that there is nothing in place.

The Whole System is BROKEN.

  • There are few laws in place
  • Police have no official protocol
  • Police are instructed to avoid viewing the phones at crashes (for privacy concerns) relying on UNLIKELY eyewitness accounts or confessions of device use
  • The activity is nearly impossible to prosecute (only a handful of people have served jail time even for killing people and when they have - it has mostly been for a few months or less)
  • There is little urgency among lawmakers to effectively address the problem
  • Statistics are dramatically underreporting the damage (less than 1% texting crashes according to DMV statistics).
  • The public is completely unaware of the damage that is being done

References:
Alliance Combating Distracted Driving; National Safety Council
1 Strayer, D. L. (2007, February 28). Presentation at Cell Phones and Driver Distraction. Traffic Safety Coalition, Washington DC. 2 Maples, W. C., DeRosier, W., Hoenes, R., Bendure, R., & Moore S. (2008). The effects of cell phone use on peripheral vision. Optometry – Journal of the American Optometric Association. 79 (1), 36-42.
2 Maples, W. C., DeRosier, W., Hoenes, R., Bendure, R., & Moore S. (2008). The effects of cell phone use on peripheral vision. Optometry – Journal of the American Optometric Association. 79 (1), 36-42.
3 Kolosh, K. Summary of Estimate Model. (2012). National Safety Council. Retrieved from http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/Resources/Documents/NSC Estimate Summary.pdf
4 Kolosh, K. Summary of Estimate Model. (2012). National Safety Council. Retrieved from http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/Resources/Documents/NSC Estimate Summary.pdf