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1.6 Million Accidents Linked to Texting, Cell Phone Use While Driving

Jan 13, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

A safety advocacy group says that drivers who use cell phones or text while operating their vehicles are responsible for 1.6 million - or 28 percent - of all  automobile accidents that occur on U.S. highways every year.  The National Safety Council, which released the estimates, called for a ban on cell phone use and texting while driving a year ago.

Public opinion research conducted in 2009 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Nationwide Insurance show public support for total bans on cell phones at 43 and 57 percent respectively,” Janet Froetscher, president & CEO of NSC, said in the group’s press release. “With public support now around 50 percent, we will continue to educate people about the risks of cell phone use while driving and the value of effectively-enforced laws in changing behavior and reducing crashes.”

According to an NSC press release, 1.4 million crashes each year are caused by drivers using cell phones and a minimum of 200,000 additional crashes each year are caused by drivers who are texting. In constructing its estimates, NSC  used widely-accepted statistical methods and analysis based on data of driver cell phone use from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and from peer-reviewed research that quantifies the risk of using a cell phone and texting while driving.

The estimate of 25 percent of all crashes — or 1.4 million — caused by cell phone use was derived from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data showing 11 percent of drivers at any one time are using cell phones and from peer-reviewed research reporting cell phone use increases crash risk by four times. The estimate of an additional minimum 3 percent of crashes — or 200,000 — caused by texting was derived by NHTSA data showing 1 percent of drivers at any one time are manipulating their device in ways that include texting and from research reporting texting increases crash risk by 8 times. Using the highest risk for texting reported by research of 23 times results in a maximum of 1 million crashes due to texting; still less than the 1.4 million crashes caused by other cell phone use.

NSC’s statistical model and estimates were peer-reviewed by academic researchers in traffic safety and biostatistics.

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