By now, you have probably heard that distracted driving – particularly involving cell phone use while driving – has become a leading cause of auto accidents. In fact, the National Safety Council estimates that more than one in four auto accidents is caused by cellphone use. Studies monitoring this behavior have largely focused college students and young people, but in a new study just released by the University of California San Diego, older drivers seem just as susceptible to this alarming habit.
As Science Daily reports, researchers modified a survey they had used to gather data on college students, but this time provided it to drivers between the ages 30 and 64. The results were troubling: of the 715 people who were surveyed, 75% of them admitted to talking on the phone hands-free. Of those drivers, 90% believed themselves capable drivers while talking hands-free and less than 30% of all participants knew that talking hands-free while driving was potentially dangerous (about as dangerous as driving at the legal BAC limit).
“One of the things we were worried about in the 30-64 age group was whether they would use their phones while driving as frequently as the teenagers and young adults did, especially with kids in the car,” Professor Linda Hill, co-author of the study said. “The thing about middle-aged drivers is their passengers tend to be minors, and there’s an issue of modeling if the adults are teaching them how to drive.”
New Prevention Efforts
After reviewing the new data, the California Office for Traffic Safety began working with companies to help spread awareness among their employees. This was particularly important since many of the survey participants reported that they felt pressure to answer the phone while driving when the calls were work-related.
“The survey really helped us design something that would change behavior and we’re excited we’ve been able to use it to make a difference,” Professor Hill added about the awareness program. “People need to hear information about the risks of distracted driving from different sources, like public health, law enforcement and family. We’re now working to get the message out, and hope to set up a system where we train trainers around the country.”
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