of deaths blamed on inattention has climbed 72 percent in recent
years, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety recently
reported. Cell phone usage, fiddling with CD players and eating
while driving number among top distractions.
In a report
comparing 1996 to 2000, the latest year for which statistics are
available, highway deaths blamed on driver inattention totaled
157 in 2000, up from 91 in 1996.
15 percent of the 1,063 fatalities on state roads were blamed
on inattentive driving, compared with about 10 percent of the
930 fatalities in 1996.
quoted Jane Stutts, manager of epidemiological studies at the
University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, who
is studying driver inattention. "Different age groups appear
to be distracted by different things," Stutts said. She found
nearly half of the drivers who weren't paying attention said they
were distracted by something outside the car like a wreck or disabled
included adjusting the radio, talking to passengers, using a cell
phone and eating, Stutts added. Drivers 19 and younger were likely
to be distracted by tuning the radio or changing CDs. Young adults
between 20 and 29 seemed more distracted by other passengers,
particularly small children. Drivers over 65 were found to be
more distracted by objects or events happening outside the car.
The DPS also
gathered information from University of South Carolina professor
Gary Allan, an expert on cognitive psychology. He said it's difficult
for most people to drive and talk on a cell phone at the same
time. "When you're engaged in some form of communication,
you probably have to think about the content that's coming in,"
Allan said. "Drivers get into trouble when something unexpected
happens in front of them."
don't have enough experience at driving and talking on a phone
at the same time to be safe, Allan said. "Driving a car requires
considerable concentration to avoid a crash."
York has a ban against using cell phones when the vehicle is moving.
New Jersey plans to introduce anti-cell phone legislation in January.
A number of bills regulating cell phone use were introduced last
session in the United States, including two in South Carolina,
but died without being voted on.