Recently, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger breathed new life into stalled state legislation to ban cell phone use while driving, calling the practice "inexcusable" and "terrible." Well, according to a recent series of snap polls conducted as part of Autobytel's "Take the Pledge to Slow Down" safe driving campaign, those harsh words apply to the vast majority of American drivers.
In fact, 84% of drivers polled by Autobytel say they use their cell phones while driving – either occasionally (51%) or often (33%). To make matters worse, the majority (56%) say they primarily do so for merely "personal" reasons (i.e., to chat), while only 28% say they primarily talk and drive for emergency situations, and only 16% for business.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of driving and talking, 70% of poll-takers concede that they don't think it's safe, with 37% describing it as "not at all" safe and 33% saying it's "not very" safe. And nearly half (48%) agree with Governor Schwarzenegger that it should be outlawed, with only 37% saying that it should not and 15% remaining undecided.
But as political will builds to control this "old school" driver distraction, a new generation of technology gadgets – from Blackberries and iPods to hundred-channel satellite radio receivers – are making the distractions associated with cell phone conversations seem quaint. If driving while talking, even hands-free, is dangerous – and a new study finds that it's actually more dangerous than drunk driving – then just imagine how dangerous it is to type a text message with one hand on the wheel, or to find that one song among thousands on an iPod. If you're thinking that a sense of self-preservation keeps people from doing things like that, you're If you're thinking that nobody does crazy stuff like that, you're dead wrong. In fact, nearly 40% of the drivers polled by Autobytel say they've typed a text message while driving, 30% say they've driven while using their iPods with headphones … and an alarming 58% admit that they've taken both hands off the wheel because they were fiddling with high-tech gadgets. It should come as no surprise, then, that when asked to describe their experience with in-vehicle gadgets and driver safety, 88% described it as either a moderate or serious safety threat, with 40% characterizing today's tech-distracted drivers as "out of control."
Still not convinced? Just ask the 15% of all of the drivers polled who admit that they've actually caused or come close to causing an accident while distracted by technology.