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Question of the Day
“I definitely have the bad habit of tweeting and driving, texting and driving, and updating my Facebook status,” Bishop said. “I probably shouldn’t but the technology makes it too easy.”
About two out of 10 American drivers overall _ and half of drivers between 21 and 24 _ say they’ve thumbed messages or emailed from the driver’s seat, according to a survey of more than 6,000 drivers by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
At any given moment last year on America’s streets and highways, nearly one in every 100 car drivers was texting, emailing, surfing the Web or otherwise using a hand-held electronic device, the safety administration said. Those activities were up 50 percent over the previous year.
NTSB investigators said they are seeing increasing texting, cellphone calls and other distracting behavior by drivers in accidents involving all kinds of transportation. It has become routine to immediately request the preservation of cellphone and texting records when an investigation begins.
In the past few years, the board has investigated a train collision in which the engineer was texting that killed 25 people in Chatsworth, Calif., a fatal accident near Philadelphia in which a tugboat pilot was talking on his cellphone and using a laptop computer, and a Northwest Airlines flight that sped more than 100 miles past its destination because both pilots were working on their laptops.
Last year, a driver was dialing his cellphone when his truck crossed a highway median near Munfordville, Ky., and collided with a 15-passenger van. Eleven people were killed.
While the NTSB doesn’t have the power to impose restrictions, its recommendations carry significant weight with federal regulators, Congress and state lawmakers. But the board’s decision to include hands-free cellphone use in its recommendation is likely to prove especially controversial.
No states currently ban hand-free use, although many studies show that it is often as unsafe as hand-held phone use because drivers’ minds are on their conversations rather than what’s happening on the road.
Bike messenger Jesus Santa Rosa, 24, says he’s seen a lot of accidents that are caused by people using their cellphones while he maneuvers through the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
“I’ve seen people taking red lights while they’re looking down at their cellphones,” said Santa Rosa. “And a lot of people get hit _ bike messengers, pedestrians.”
Santa Rosa says he was sideswiped by a woman who was exiting the freeway and charging onto downtown’s surface streets at a high speed.
“This girl, when she stopped after she hit me, she was still talking on the phone as she got out of the car, like, telling someone she almost just killed someone,” Santa Rosa said.
Still, he said a ban on hands-free devices would probably be going too far because “texting is more dangerous. They’re not looking up.”
Another NTSB recommendation Tuesday urges states to aggressively enforce current bans on text messaging and the use of cellphones and other portable electronic devices while driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported earlier this year that pilot projects in Syracuse, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn., produced significant reductions in distracted driving by combining stepped-up ticketing with high-profile public education campaigns.
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