It looks like dangerous drivers are really just dangerous all around. Those who talk on their cellphones while they drive are also more likely to speed, send texts and emails while driving, drive while drowsy and not wear their seatbelts, an AAA study found.
In addition, the study found that most people seem to know how dangerous it is to use a cellphone while driving, yet do it anyway. Out of the 3,896 licensed drivers AAA surveyed, 89 percent thought others who drive while chatting on the phone are a threat to their personal safety, but 69 percent reported taking calls while driving.
"Ninety percent of respondents believe that distracted driving is a somewhat or much bigger problem today than it was three years ago, yet they themselves continue to engage in the same activities," Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a statement.
Cellphones and other distracting devices are major contributors to traffic injuries and deaths in the United States. In 2011, an estimated 387,000 people were injured and 3,331 people died in car crashes involving distraction, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). (2011 figures are the latest available from the agency.) Distracted driving accounted for about 10 percent of that year's traffic fatalities.
Kissinger suggested educating drivers will improve their habits, but distracted driving seems to be more a problem of temptation than understanding. Kathleen Bower, AAA's president of public affairs, agreed: "These same cellphone-using drivers clearly understand the risk of distraction, yet are still likely to engage in a wide range of dangerous driving activities."
NHTSA is tackling distracted driving with voluntary guidelines for automakers, which would be especially relevant to newer models of cars that boast integration with people's smartphones. The agency's suggestions include limits for how much visual information the driver sees at once and a limit for how much time onboard devices require for operation, the Detroit News reported. The traffic agency began writing the guidelines in February 2012 and is "very, very close to finalizing" them, NHTSA chief David Strickland said. Major automakers will talk with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget before anything is finalized, the Detroit News reported.
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