Traveling on vacation this summer, or maybe just over the state line for a soccer match this weekend? You should be aware of state laws on cell-phone use and texting while driving. You can check them out with this excellent cell-phone laws resource from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Whatever the law, bear in mind that in 2008 almost 6,000 people died and more than half a million people were injured on U.S. roads in crashes that involved distracted drivers. On a global scale, it is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that 1.2 million people die on the roads each year and another 20-50 million are injured. And between 80 and 90 percent of accidents are caused by driver behavior, like distracted driving. Distracted driving is defined as anything that takes the driver's hands off the wheel or eyes off the road for more than two seconds or interrupts concentration.
Using a cell phone while driving--whether it's handheld or hands-free--delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 (the legal limit for drivers 21 and older in all states), according to research from the University of Utah.
Texting while driving is even worse. It involves the three types of activities that distract drivers the most: visual (looking away from the road), manual (punching keys on a wireless device), and cognitive (reading or composing a text message).
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has also compiled a state-by-state compendium of motor-vehicle safety laws, including child safety seats, speed and red-light cameras, and drunk driving. Visit the map-based Highway Safety Laws by State page, and you’ll even find the answer to that burning question: Are Segways allowed on roads? (Hawaii, no. New Hampshire, yes.)
Today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is taking the campaign to end distracted driving global at the United Nations. But change can begin locally, with each driver committing to making smarter decisions in how he or she behaves behind the wheel.
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