Amidst the growing national debate over the dangers of cell phone use while driving, state highway safety representatives are voicing concern that focusing on cell phones alone is reducing attention that should be paid to other distracted-driving issues.
“In all these discussions, I'm concerned that the focus on technology is overriding the fact that many crashes can be attributed to traditional distractions and not cell phones,” said John Moffat, chairman of the National Association of Governors’ Highway Safety Representatives (NAGHSR).
“The fact is that actions such as changing a CD, eating and reading while driving still contribute to many crashes even though much of the media attention has been on cell phones,” he added.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver inattention is estimated to be a factor in 25 to 50% of highway collisions. This translates into a monetary cost of $40 to $80 billion annually, NAGHSR said. A recent observational study by NHTSA showed that only 3% of people were talking on the phone while driving, a surprisingly low number given the widespread attention the cell phone debate has received, NAGHSR said.
Despite the dangers of such “traditional” distractions, Moffat said he expects attention to continue to focus on cell phones alone. Over 300 local jurisdictions have considered or are considering ordinances and a federal ban has been proposed, he said.
In June, NAGHSR denounced legislative efforts to ban cell phones as being flawed and ineffective and urged further research on the issue.