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Deadly Calls: How Answering Your Phone Can Cost You Your Life

When we hear about someone being injured or even killed as a result of drunk driving, the reaction is usually somewhere between sadness (for the deceased or injured) and disgust (for the driver). If we see someone obviously driving drunk, we call the police and report them in the hopes that our actions will prevent needless pain. It is only recently that we have begun to feel the same disgust for the driver using a cell phone as we do for the driver that may be drunk. Well, many will say, talking and driving is not as dangerous as drinking and driving. While this might make sense on the surface (we talk to people all the time while driving if we have a passenger) it is not proving to be the case. According to numerous studies, using a cell phone while driving gives the driver the same reduced reaction time as someone with a .08 BAC, the legal limit. Given this fact, it is not surprising that the proportion of fatalities associated with driver distraction is on the rise, up 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009.


New York was the first state to ban hand held cell phone use while driving, but it was certainly not the last. In fact, the list of states with hand held cell phone bans is growing regularly, with many other states restricting use of cell phones while driving. Delaware’s cell phone ban took effect January 2nd, 2011, making it the most recent state to impose a ban on using hand held phones while driving. The nine states currently enforcing (or soon to be enforcing) the ban include:

  • California

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Maryland

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • Oregon

  • Utah

  • Washington

Drunk Driving vs. Distracted Driving

5,474 people were killed in 2009 due to distracted driving, a term which has come to describe drivers using cell phones. This is approximately half the amount of people killed as a result of alcohol-impaired driving. According to the Center for Disease Control and the US Government Website for Distracted Driving, drunk driving and distracted driving accounted for 48 percent of all fatal car accidents, meaning nearly half of all fatal car accidents were the result of someone selfishly seeking their own satisfaction with no regard for the safety of others, or themselves, on the road.

Out of roughly 10,000 people who die every year as a result of injuries suffered in car accidents caused by drunk driving, 3,000 of them are teenagers. While this number is greater than the number of teenagers killed due to drunk driving, it is worth mentioning that out of the 5,474 people killed due to distracted driving in 2009, teenagers accounted for the majority.

The Future

Law enforcement in America is cracking down as much as their legislatures will allow on cell phone use while driving. If someone is caught driving while texting or talking on the phone, the fine can be as little as 50 dollars or as much as 500, depending on whether or not the person has done it before, and if the talking or texting caused a moving violation or accident. 

In the future, as more and more states adopt bans on hand held cell phone use, the hope is that people will set down their cell phones while driving or at the very least, use a hands-free device. This will significantly increase safety on the road, saving lives in the process.

Prevention and Awareness

Allowing the incoming call to go to voicemail or allowing your live answering service to continue to take calls until you arrive at your destination is worth considering. You can return all calls once you are no longer behind the wheel.

Text Free Driving Organization – A group committed to ending texting while driving in America.

State Laws – All states have at least one law addressing cell phone use while driving. Learn yours.

Distracted Driving Awareness Day – How one state is taking a proactive approach to raising awareness about distracted driving. – Share your story with this site to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

Facts and Statistics

Insurance Information Institute – Statistics, research, and new technology on cell phone use and driving.

Distracted or Drunk? – A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver

AAA Foundation for Public Safety – A study proving the dangers of distracted driving.

Personal Stories

11 Reasons to Ban Cell-Phone Use while Driving – The stories of 11 people ages 2 to 40, who have died as a result of someone driving and using their phones.


Resources for Parents

Cell Phone Use while Driving Fact Sheet – A quick reference for the next time a teen tells you he or she is safe while not using a hands-free device.

The Truth about Distracted Driving – The fact is, even a hands-free device is dangerous without proper education about what types of conversations are best left until you pull over.

National Parent Teacher Organization – Learn the parents’ role in distracted driving prevention.

Working to Stop Teens Texting Behind the Wheel – Learn what the government is doing to stop your teen from distracted driving, and how you can best set an example.

Parents. The Anti-Drug – Learn more statistics, and how to reduce the chances of your teen becoming one.

Resources for Teenagers

Teens and Distracted Driving – 75% of teens own cell phones, but a much smaller percentage use them safely while driving. 

Understanding the Distracted Brain – Sometimes it takes seeing it in black and white for the facts to really sink in.

Teen Driving Survey – Learn what other teens are saying about the dangers of distracted driving. Where they are right, and where they are wrong.

Written by: 
Jacob C. Herman

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