From Itasca, Illinois, the National Safety Council released its take on a new Status Report that has been published by the the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently. In it, the Insurance Institute took distracted driving data from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, and analyzed it in tandem with traffic accident data reported to U.S. insurance companies alongside the various state laws that ban different types of distracted driving (texting while driving, chatting on phone while driving, etc.).
The NSC is a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and reporting on safety issues and it’s been around since 1913. The IIHS was created by the three biggest car insurance companies back in 1959, and ten years later became an independent research organization.
NSC on Latest Distracted Driving Report: What About Risks of Hands-Free?
It comes as no surprise that the National Safety Council supports making all kinds of distracted driving from the use of smartphones or other electronic devices illegal. As the NSC opines, “… it’s abundantly clear that using an electronic device while driving makes you four times as likely to crash, handheld or hands-free.”
Of particularly interest is the NSC taking to task the IIHS for not recognizing that hands-free cellphone use can be just as distracting and dangerous as talking on the phone while holding the phone in your hand. From the NSC analysis:
The report also queries why insurance claims haven’t decreased when handheld cell phone use has declined. While the enforcement of handheld laws does seem to be reducing handheld device use, IIHS acknowledges that drivers could be switching to hands-free. Therefore, we would not expect to see much reduction in claims because studies have shown that hands-free is not risk-free.
Underreporting of Cell Phone Distractions Means Numbers are Low
Both the NSC and the IIHS point out that the Status Report’s findings are limited by a lack of complete information regarding how many accidents and crashes are caused by cell phones. Unreporting is a big problem here, and the real dangers of distracted driving are assumed to be bigger than the numbers show.
The NSC ballparks that 26% of all traffic accidents are caused by distracted drivers on their phones.
Everyone Agrees that Distracted Driving in Other Forms Needs to Be Considered, Too
Both the NSC and the IIHS agree wholeheartedly on one thing: it’s not just cell phones that are distracting drivers on American roads and causing wrecks. Accidents can also be caused by drivers who are distracted by all sorts of things: dealing with music selections; eating food while they drive; putting on make-up; checking the navigation system; etc.
From the CDC:
Nine people die every day in our country from distracted driving and around another 1150 are injured daily. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines three types of distracted driving:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
- Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.
Obviously, it’s not just using a cellphone that can cause any of these three kinds of driving distractions. However, the real danger of using a cellphone, handheld or hands’ free, in a car is that the conversation can cause all three of these kinds of distractions to occur at the same time.