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US quashed report on dangers of phone use while driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) a federal agency who’s function is keeping US roadways safe, suppressed research from seven years ago on the dangers of cell phone use while driving, fearing political fallout from the study, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Two US consumer groups -- The Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen – were able to get the findings released only after filing court orders under the Freedom of Information Act.

The NHTSA research, which tracked cell phone use by US drivers in 2002, found that year 955 people were killed during 240,000 roadway accidents while speaking or texting on a cell phone.

This was seven years ago, how much has cell phone use increased since then? How many more must be dying now?

Hands-free headsets favored by a growing number of jurisdictions only partly resolve the problem, since the studies showed that the main accident risk is caused by the phone conversation itself, when a driver's focus is off the road.

"We're looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up," said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, and quoted by The Times.

It is this writer's personal opinion that if there was a Nation Wide ban on cell phone use while driving we would not see a decrease in their use. Cell phones receive messages, and if a call is important a driver can pull over and answer it.

It is also my opinion that a huge percentage of cell phone calls are not in the least important, and most are nothing more than idle chit-chat between friends and family.


Reader Comments (5)

This is hardly surprising (the fact that the report was suppressed). We live in a culture where driving a potentially lethal weapon is considered a right, as opposed to a responsibility. Anything that gets in the way of driving 'freedom' is going to be politically very bad, and in a democracy we all know that you do what's popular, and you ignore what's right.....if it's going to lose you votes.

Cell phone use is only one of the distractions that drivers encounter while driving. We've all seen people play with their car stereos, eat food, read and sometimes even surf the web while driving.

For some odd reason, people (even my otherwise reasonable wife) think that when a cellphone rings you MUST answer it IMMEDIATELY!! They'll even stop a conversation with another person to answer a text or a call. I don't know about you, but I find that rude. It seems that people in the flesh are less important than our communication devices these days.

So it's hardly surprising that people talk on their cellphones when they're driving. The people in the other cars, on the street and on their bikes are so much less important that the person on the phone.

Maybe it's because the popular notion that 'driving a car is fun' is actually wrong. I'm sure driving down a beautiful road with no other traffic on it can actually be fun, but I don't believe it's fun to drive on a busy highway. Maybe that's why people allow so many distractions while they're driving....anything to take their minds off the chore of driving.

I really enjoy riding my bike, and I don't want any distractions (phone, music...anything) taking my mind off the pleasure of just riding my bike, so there's little chance that you'll catch me texting while riding.

One more reason to ditch the car, and ride your bike. :D

July 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterYohann M

There are far too many people on the road who have neither the intelligence nor moral capacity to be entrusted with the power that operating a motor vehicle provides.

July 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

I'm a regular bicycle commuter, and I see drivers text messaging while "driving" every single day I ride. This makes me fear for my life and the lives of my friends and fellow cyclists.
What hurts, though, is the local police crackdown on cyclists riding two abreast or not putting a foot down at a stop sign.* This seems like misplaced priorities, since one annoys some people and the other kills people.

*I stop at stop signs.

July 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I constantly see drivers on the phone on my way to work and I'm always asking myself what in the world are they talking about at 7am.

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGarrett

Eventually, hopefully, people will wake up and realize the carnage that an automobile centric society creates. There was massive outrage when ~2,974 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks. Drivers behind the wheel of cars kill that many people every 11 days, yet there is little to no outrage. In almost 40% of accidents there is alcohol involved, little to no outrage. Driver's education in the US is a complete joke. Costs to the US public are estimated to be over $164 billion usd a year.

As for the cellphone study being supressed? Follow the money trail.


August 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter2whls3spds
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