The Big Story Blog

Can we break the cell phone / driving habit?

Posted at 8:50 AM on December 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Transportation

When the phone rings while we're driving, most of us answer it.

That's a fact of life right now, one that showed up in recent surveys of drivers by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Equally interesting, though, is how unsafe we feel as passengers in a car when we see the driver talking or texting.

The NHTSA surveys found 80 percent of men and more than 70 percent of women will pick up the phone while driving if someone calls, though they are less wiling to make a call behind the wheel.

distractedgraph1.jpg

We see the danger in those habits, though, sitting in the passenger seats. The agency found:

As passengers, almost all considered a driver who was sending a text message or email (86% of men, 90% of women) and reading emails or text messages (84% men, 88% women) as very unsafe, and this perception increased with age from 62% in the youngest age category to 96% in adults 65 and older.
Despite those worries, most of us are unwilling to say something when our driver picks up a cell phone.

distractedgraph2.jpg

Yes, we're willing to call out a driver who's texting. But officials believe now that all personal electronics use while driving need to be banned. Are we ready for that?


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.