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Safety & Accident

February 02, 2012

Guest Editorial: '5 Reasons Why Distracted Driving is Not Just a Teen Problem’

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In response to a segment on NBC’s Today Show, Zoomsafer, the software company that provides hands-free solutions for drivers and fleets, posted the blog below on its website addressing why distracted driving is more than just a problem for teens:

Judging from this morning’s anti-texting while driving segment on NBC’s TODAY show — everyone understands that cell phone use while driving is a growing epidemic among teenage drivers.

What few people, however, understand (and what TODAY‘s segment failed to mention) is that the distracted driving epidemic is not exclusive to teen drivers.  Adults are just as much a part of the problem – a fact that creates serious financial risk and liability for America’s employers.

Here’s five reasons why cell phone use while driving is much more than just a “teen problem”:

1.  The Data Doesn’t Lie:  In June 2010, the Pew Research Center conducted a study which found that One in four (27%) American adults say they have texted while driving, the same proportion as the number of driving age teens (26%) who say they have texted while driving.  Also, the study found that 61% of adults say they have talked on their cell phones while they were behind the wheel.  That is considerably greater than the number of 16- and 17-year-olds (43%) who have talked on their cells while driving.

2.  Cell Phone-Toting Adults Teach Teens to Drive:  A nationwide survey commissioned by State Farm of 517 sets of teen drivers and their parents found that 61% of teens reported their parents were distracted by their cell phone or other electronic device at least once while teaching them to drive; 29% said their parents were distracted “sometimes, often or all the time” while driving.

3.  Cell Phone Use While Driving Increases Crash Risk-Regardless of Age:  After examining the behavior of drivers over more than six million miles of road, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) found that texting drivers were 23 times more likely to be in a crash or near-crash than non-distracted drivers – regardless of age.  The study also showed that texting drivers involved in ‘safety-critical’ events had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds–enough time to travel the length of a football field when driving at 55 mph.  By contrast, talking on a cell phone, which allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road, represented an increased risk of only 1.3 times that of a nondistracted driver.

4.  Vehicle Crashes Are #1 Killer of Teens *AND* Employees:  While it’s true that motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. teens — it’s also true that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of workplace fatalities.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 39% of occupational fatalities in 2010 involved motor vehicle incidents.

5.  Vehicle Crashes Have Massive Human and Economic Costs:  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that motor vehicle crashes involving employees costs employers $60 billion annually.  Furthermore, NHTSA also reports that fatal crashes cost employers $500,000 per, and nonfatal crashes with injury cost $74,000 per.  Additionally, a recent AAA study found that fatal car crashes cost society $6 million each.  Under the theory of vicarious liability, companies whose employees are involved in distracted driving crashes can be held legally and financially liable. 

So while the issue of teen distracted driving is critically important — so, too, is the issue of adult distracted driving.  Companies especially face significant risk and liability as a result of employee use of phones while driving on the job.  Each and every day there are 18 million commercial fleet vehicles on American roads.  These vehicles are driven by cell phone-toting adults (not teens) and every single one of them is tempted to text, email or browse while on the road.

Regardless of whether you’re a parent or employer — it’s time to promote safe, legal and responsible use of phones while driving.

For the Zoomsafer blog in its original, click on the URL: http://zoomsafer.com/buzz/blog/five-reasons-why-distracted-driving-is-not-just-a-teen-problem/

For some good tips on creating an effective cell phone for your small fleet, click here.

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