Distracted driving should be common sense, not studied

Published 8:10 am Wednesday, April 26, 2006

By Staff
The government on April 20 released a study with the unsurprising conclusion that distracted driving results in an awful lot of traffic crashes.
Common sense should have told us that.
When it comes to steering a few thousand pounds of vehicular weapon down a highway, especially in a rural area where a deer or a child can dart out without warning or a driver can fly around a bend or over a hill and come upon a school bus stopped or a slow-moving tractor, that's enough “multi-tasking.”
Distracted drivers were involved in almost eight out of 10 collisions or near crashes.
And if you're driving drowsy, the study says you're four to six times more likely to crash.
One Virginia commuter described his “personal favorite” as a woman in traffic “with her knees up on the steering wheel, sheet music in her lap and she was playing the flute.”
A driver reaching for a moving object increased the risk of a crash by nine times, according to researchers for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
They found the risk of crashing almost triples when a driver dials a cell phone, not to mention all the motorists applying makeup, eating, reading e-mail and checking scores and stocks at 50 or 60 or 70 mph.
The number of crashes or near crashes linked to dialing cell phones is almost identical to the amount tied to actually talking on the phone or listening.
Researchers are proud of their report because they say it provides the first links between crash risks and a driver's inattention and points up that these diversions are much more dangerous than thought before, since police report data suggested a figure more in the realm of 25 percent of crashes.
Researchers tracked the behavior of 241 drivers in metropolitan Washington, D.C., for more than a year. They were involved in 82 mishaps of various degrees of severity. Fifteen were reported to police. Air bags deployed in three instances. There were 761 “near crashes.”
The project further analyzed nearly 2 million miles driven and more than 43,300 hours of data.
Last year a government report found about 10 percent of drivers using cell phones.
This year it seems like only 10 percent aren't.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the District of Columbia prohibit motorists from speaking on hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel.
No mention of what this study cost, but it had to be way more than what common sense could tell us.