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Drivers Ed

Cell Phones and Driving - A Dangerous Combination

More people than ever are conducting business and holding personal conversations on their cell phones, all over the country. As useful as cell phones are, they can cause serious problems if used while driving.

When a driver "talks and drives" they are not only putting themselves at risk, they are also putting everyone around them in a dangerous situation. As the driver must take their eyes off the road to dial the phone, the focus is on their phone and not on who's in front of them. Plus, drivers become absorbed in their conversations, which diverts their concentration, ultimately jeopardizing the safety of other drivers and pedestrians on the road.

Proven Risk
According to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, over 200 million people used cell phones as of December 2005, compared to approximately 4.3 million in 1990. This increase in cell phone use has led to a rise in the number of people talking on the phone while driving - leading to more potential accidents.

Don't believe it? In a study conducted last year by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), researchers placed cameras and internal car sensors inside 100 cars to track drivers' activities right before a dangerous event occurred. Researchers found that users of cell phones or other electronic devices, while driving, caused far more crashes and near misses than non-users.

Hands-free, accident-free? Maybe not
Hands-free cell phones may allow the driver to keep both hands on the wheel, but there are down sides that make them just as dangerous. In a study conducted by the NHTSA, researchers found that devices such as headsets or voice activated dialing led to longer dialing times. Ironically, these delays created the same level of driver distraction encountered by the users as hand-held phones.

At the University of Utah, researches discovered that motorists who talked on hands-free cell phones were eighteen percent slower to brake and seventeen percent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked. Slow reaction time could potentially lead to costly fender benders!

Bad Business
Hands-free or hand-held, cell phones are a popular tool among many business people driving to and from meetings. They are using their time effectively, you say. Wrong!

In the past years some very high profile cases have gone to court involving car accidents caused by business people on the phone. In many of these cases, the employer was just as liable as the driver. That's because under the doctrine of vicarious responsibility, employers can be legally held accountable for the negligent acts of their employees. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to state cell phone use policy for their company.

This has caused many companies to create or reevaluate their cell-phone policies. Some companies allow their employees to conduct business over the phone as long as they pull over to the side of the road or into a parking lot. Other companies have chosen to ban the use of cell phones all together.

The High Cost of Talk
With cell phone accidents on the rise, states and cities are cracking down with cell phone bans and expensive fines. For instance, Connecticut drivers can be fined $100 for using a cell phone while driving. That cost does not include other fines the driver may incur as a result of getting pulled over. In New Jersey, cell phone fines range from $100 to $250, while, fines in Washington D.C. range around $100. In New York, drivers pay $100 for the first violations, $200 for the second and $500 thereafter. So if you're driving through these states, it's best to turn your cell phone off!

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