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Cell phone laws do not distract drivers from using devices

A recent blog discussed local efforts to prohibit drivers from using cell phones and texting because South Carolina is one of three states that have no general prohibition against motorists using electronic devices. While governments have tried to address this problem in the last four years, distracted driving and its dangers persist and may be growing.

According to the Governor Highways Highway Transportation Safety Administration, a non-profit organization comprised of the states' highway safety offices, 15 states reported that that their distracted driving crashes have increased, 11 states found that the number of accidents decreased and 16 states found that there was no change.

A spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an driving research organization, stated that cell phone restrictions has not led to a faster drop in the number of accidents in states that prohibit their use while driving. The National Highway Transportation Safety reported 3,331 traffic fatalities involving a distracted driver in 2011, the most recent year where data is available. This was an increase from the 3,267 deaths in 2010. Where the source of the car crash distraction was identified for 2011, cell phone usage was attributed to 350, or 12 percent, of the fatalities.

More alarming, experts believe that these statistics are greatly under-reported. The National Safety Council, in a study of 180 fatal cellphone accidents for 2009-2011, found that federal data reported only half of the crashes. The National Safety Council claims that a quarter of all accidents involve cell phone use because many times there are no witnesses, a driver does not admit cell phone use and police do ask about use of cell phones.

Technology will compound this problem. The installation of expanded digital communications, such infotainment systems, will grow fivefold over the next five years and cause more distractions. Using hands-free devices, allowed by 11 states that ban hand-held phone usage by motorists, actually causes greater mental distractions.

Regardless of any legal measures taken in South Carolina, distracted driving will continue to pose road perils. As this article shows, in fact, this problem has been under-reported. Victims of an accident caused by a distracted driver should promptly seek guidance on seeking compensation for medical treatment, lost wages and other losses.

Source: Huffington Post, "States Combat Cell Phone Use On The Road But Deaths Persist," Kevin Short, July 18, 2013

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