You’ve seen it done.
You’ve done it yourself.
And you probably know that it’s dangerous.
However, research compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and now released thanks to a lawsuit documents the high risks involved in using the cell phone while driving. (We won’t even go into texting, which tanks the danger to whole ‘nother level.)
According to the New York Times:
The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002….
The research mirrors other studies about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel. Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.
The three-person research team based the fatality and accident estimates on studies that quantified the risks of distracted driving, and an assumption that 6 percent of drivers were talking on the phone at a given time. That figure is roughly half what the Transportation Department assumes to be the case now.
The Times reports that the data in question were available back in 2003, but officials at the Department of Transportation blocked public release, fearing the agency would draw punitive action by congressional budget committees and criticism by the cell phone industry.
Rather than risk getting people angry, the federal agency charged with highway safety chose to just keep quiet about it, ignoring the fact that its silence probably contributed to the deaths of hundreds of people a year. Even now, the data are becoming available only because outside groups filed lawsuits forcing its release.