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Report: Fewer People Using Cell Phones Behind The Wheel
Cell phone use while driving continues on a declining trend according to a recent US Department of Transportation report.

NHTSA report cover
Fewer people are texting and chatting on their mobile phones while driving, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report concluded last month. Between 2016 and 2017, handheld cell phone use dropped from 3.3 percent of drivers to 2.9 percent. This represents a dramatic reduction from the phone use peak of 6.2 percent in 2007.

The results were gathered in a nationwide observational study in which researchers peered into 50,577 cars as they pulled up to 1600 randomly selected stop lights during daylight hours. Trained observers also noted each time a motorist was seen with phone in hand or otherwise visibly fiddling with the device. They also checked whether drivers were using headsets behind the wheel. The same methods are used in federal surveys to measure usage of seatbelts, child seats and motorcycle helmets.

According to the subjective assessment of the observers, the combination of factors most likely to result in cell phone use behind the wheel would be a very young, black female driving alone in a pickup truck in the Midwestern city during a light rain. By contrast, elderly males of "other" non-white races rarely used phones while driving cars in the rural Northeast.

The observational results are broadly consistent with a report NHTSA issued last year on public attitudes toward driving and cell phone use. A telephone survey found 9 percent of drivers admitted that they sometimes text behind the wheel, while 11 percent said that they do so, but rarely. Most explained that they do this while stopped at a light, and 19 percent use voice recognition to dictate the message without using their hands.

Sixteen states ban driving with a cell phone in hand. Texting and driving is banned everywhere except Arizona, Missouri and Montana. Only about half of frequent texters thought they were likely to actually receive a ticket for their conduct. Half of the total respondents explained they had bluetooth in their car to make hands-free calls. About 57 percent reported that they never or only rarely answer their phone while driving.

Among drivers over the age of 65, 98 percent said they never text and drive. Among those aged 16 to 20, 4.8 percent said they always or almost always do -- the figure includes voice dictation and texting at a stop light.

A copy of the report is available in a PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Driver Electronic Device Use in 2017 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1/25/2019)

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