More than one in four car crashes involves cell phone use, according to a new report by the National Safety Council.
Perhaps even more surprising, only 5 percent of crashes involve texting, while 21 percent involve drivers talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones, according to the report.
The findings serve as a grim reminder than talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel -- even on a hands-free device -- can be incredibly dangerous.
Distracted Driving Is Underreported, NSC Believes
In 2012, 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. According to the National Safety Council's report, 26 percent of crashes involved cell phone use.
It is believed cell phone use (even hands-free use) contributes to so many car accidents because drivers get wrapped up in their conversations and stop paying attention to the road -- the exact definition of distracted driving.
As far as crash data collection goes, nearly all states include at least one category for distraction on police crash report forms, although the specific data collected varies. The Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria guideline provides best practices on distraction data collection, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Nevertheless, the NSC believes the data on distracted crashes is underreported, WCBS-TV reports. If so, that means cell phones could be involved in far more car accidents than most people realize.
Distracted Driving Laws
Here is a breakdown of state laws on distracted driving, as provided by the GHSA:
- Hand-held cell phone use. Twelve states and Washington, D.C., prohibit drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. These are "primary enforcement" laws, meaning an officer can cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.
- All cell phone use. No state has a complete ban on all cell phone use while driving, but 37 states and the District of Columbia ban all cell phone use by novice drivers (for good reason); in addition, 20 states and D.C. prohibit cell phone use by school bus drivers.
- Text messaging. Currently, 42 states and Washington, D.C., prohibit text messaging for all drivers. Another five states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers and three states restrict school bus drivers from texting as well.
So if you find yourself receiving calls or text messages while behind the wheel, do everyone a favor and pull over to the side of the road to catch up, gossip, and figure out dinner plans. Otherwise your next call may be to an experienced car accident lawyer near you.
- Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Cell phone use increases accidents (Nebraska City News Press)
- Texting and Driving? There's an App to Stop That (FindLaw's Injured)
- What's More Dangerous Than Texting and Driving? (FindLaw's Injured)
- Driver Tweets '2 Drunk 2 Care,' Then Kills 2 (FindLaw's Blotter)