In December 2008, AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety released a short paper entitled Cell Phones and Driving: Research Update. That paper summarizes several studies that identify the hazards associated with taking on the phone and driving a car. Dozens of studies have shown that cell phone use while driving has some impact on driving behavior, but the behavior most impacted appears to be a slowing of reaction time to critical events. Two studies showed that talking on a cell phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, resulted in a quadrupling of crash risk. Another study found that drivers using cell phones were actually more likely to have a rear-end crash than were drivers who have consumed alcohol.  

In a recent survey of 2,500 adults in the U.S. paid for by AAA, 83 percent of respondents said that driving while using a cell phone was a “serious” or “very serious” problem.  Five states (CA, CT, NJ, NY, WA) prohibit drivers from talking on a phone and five states (including Minnesota) prohibit drivers from text messaging while driving.

This certainly doesn't let cyclists and pedestrians off the hook. Emergency room physicians report a spike in cases of people injured while texting and simultaneously walking, biking, and rollerblading. As a result, the American College of Emergency Physicians issued a statement this summer warning of the dangers of text messaging while engaged in other activities. One illustration cited by the group: A young woman who was walking and texting when she stepped off the curb was hit by a pickup truck and died in the emergency room. Most people can walk and talk, says Linda Lawrence, president of the ACEP, but "when you text and walk, it's essentially like walking blind."

The upshot? Multi-tasking while driving, cycling, or walking is not smart. Pay attention to the road.

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