Breaking The Law: Driving While On The Phone

You've done it. Don't even try to deny it.

Even if you live in a state with laws requiring the use of a hands-free headset while speaking on the cell phone, it's almost a certainty you've at least once broken that law.

Even if you truly, honestly believe it's dangerous to do so, you just can't help yourself when your snappy, downloaded ring tone jingle jangles and you snatch it up to answer the phone.

The Harris Poll has the evidence, so don't try to deny it: 72 percent of those surveyed confessed to using their phones while driving, and 66 percent of those folks confessed to using hand-held rather than hands-free.

Harris surveyed 2,681 adults (those 18 and older) in the United States between May 11 and 18, online. You can download a PDF with charts and tables

The National Safety Council is
pushing for a complete ban on cell phone use while driving - hands-free or otherwise. It has cited a study performed in 2000 and updated in 2003 by the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis, which "estimates that cell phone use while driving contributes to 6 percent of crashes, which equates to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year." The annual financial toll, according to the study, is $43 billion. And that study was funded by AT&T Wireless.

Here's some of the key findings of the Harris survey:

  • 72% of those who drive and own cell phones say they use them to talk while they are driving;
  • Most of these people (66%) say they usually use hand-held rather than hands-free telephones to talk;
  • Even in states that have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, half (49%) of cell phone users use hand-held, rather than hands-free, phones;
  • Only 2% of those who use cell phones while driving believe this is not dangerous at all. Most believe it is very dangerous (26%), dangerous (24%) or somewhat dangerous (33%);
  • A 71% majority of those who use cell phones while driving believes that hands-free cell phones are safer than hand-held phones (even though some research suggest otherwise);
  • Younger drivers are more likely than older drivers to talk on the phone while driving. Most (58%) “Matures” (people older than Baby Boomers, currently aged 64 or over) who drive and own cell phones say they do not use their cell phones while driving; and,
  • A quarter of drivers with cell phones report using them to send or receive text messages while driving, although a large majority (74%) does not.

The poll concludes there is a "need for a major campaign to greatly reduce drivers’ cell phone use and texting."

Whether such a campaign would include a push for regulation would seem to be questionable, seeing as so many people already are ignoring current laws.