Study says more drivers are texting, despite bans

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Driver texting is on the rise, despite state bans. Image: Steven Parker/Flickr/CC

A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that two out of 10 drivers are texting behind the wheel. Half of all those who responded between the ages of 21 and 24 admitted to the act. This in spite of increasing state-wide bans. However, other figures indicate that the problem is even more widespread than people will admit.

Drivers making bad decisions

The survey, released Dec. 8, polled more than 6,000 drivers across the nation between the months of November and December, 2010. Officials said the study was commissioned to better understand why “some people continue to make bad decisions” while driving.

David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said:

“What’s clear from all of the information we have is that driver distraction continues to be a major problem.”

One in 100 at all times

Most of the people surveyed said they would answer and continue driving if they received a phone call while behind the wheel. According to the NHTSA, about one in every 100 drivers on the road is texting, emailing, using the internet or otherwise using a mobile device at any given time. The incidents are up 50 percent over last year, despite increasing state bans. In November, Pennsylvania became the 35th state to ban texting behind the wheel.

While most of those responding said they supported state-wide bans and tougher fines, about half also said that talking on a cellphone made no difference in their ability to drive. About a quarter said they could text or email with no impact to driving ability. About 90 percent of those surveyed said it made them nervous if they are a passenger in a vehicle and the driver is texting or emailing.

Traffic deaths lowest in decades

On the upside, the NHTSA figures also reported a decrease in traffic fatalities for 2010. This is despite the fact that traffic nationwide increased by 1.6 percent from 2009. And 32,855 people died on U.S. highways in 2010, compared to 33,808 deaths in 2009. That is the lowest number since 1949.


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