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Cellphone use dramatically increase crash risk.

Cellphone use dramatically increases crash risk, new AAA study says

Cellphone use dramatically increases crash risk, new AAA study says
“While driving, focus on just one task: Driving.” — AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley
Fatal car crash
Steve Nehf, The Denver Post The Colorado State Patrol investigates a fatal one-car crash near Washington St. and 64th Ave. on Jan 31, 2017. CDOT’s director called the spike of fatalities last year on an “epidemic of distracted driving.”
By KIERAN NICHOLSON | knicholson@denverpost.com | The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: January 10, 2018 at 6:30 am | UPDATED: January 10, 2018 at 9:31 am

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Drivers using cellphones to text and surf the Internet, among other uses, are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-device-distracted drivers, according to a new American Automobile Association study.

Drivers talking on a cellphone behind the wheel are up to four times more likely to be involved in a crash – regardless of whether they’re using a hands-free or handheld device, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found.

AAA described its report as “the first epidemiological study published on this topic in more than 10 years.”

“Deep down, I think everybody appreciates just how dangerous it can be to text and drive or talk and drive,” said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley in a news release. “That so many drivers regularly engage in these deadly behaviors is evidence of a ‘It could never happen to me’ mindset. Today’s report should make one thing clear: Motorists are putting themselves, other road users, pedestrians, and property at significant risk every time they pick up the phone while driving.”

Per preliminary data from the Colorado Department of Transportation, 620 people died on Colorado’s roads in 2017 – surpassing 2016’s record-breaking tally with the highest figure in more than a decade, the release said. And, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distraction was a factor about 10 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes and 18 percent of all crashes causing injury.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, distracted driving kills more than eight people and injures 1,161 people each day across the country. In Colorado, an estimated 57,298 distracted-driving crashes occurred between 2012 and 2015 with an average of 40 distracted-driving crashes occurring daily in 2016.

While the Colorado State Patrol has not taken an official position on the AAA report, the patrol does acknowledge a definitive relationship between distracted drivers and fatal collisions.

“Distractions behind the wheel of a vehicle are far too often deadly,” said Josh Lewis, a CSP spokesman. “We certainly welcome any initiative” that attempts to define and curtail distracted driving.

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“We hope people understand — yes, it can happen to you,” Lewis said. “Just because it hasn’t happened yet, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen if you continue to drive distracted.”

Drivers surveyed disapprove of using cellphones to talk or text while driving, but do it anyway according to the AAA study. “While more than 66 percent of drivers say that they personally consider it unacceptable for a driver to talk on a hand-held cellphone while driving, nearly 33 percent admit to doing it fairly often or regularly,” according to the release.

More than 80 percent of drivers say that text messaging or e-mailing are a very serious threat to their personal safety, and 93.7 percent say that they personally consider it unacceptable for a driver to type a text or e-mail while driving.

Drivers, according to the report, are generally more accepting of hands-free cellphone use than handheld use — 65.9 percent vs 28.6 percent. The report, however, indicates that hands-free and in-vehicle technologies also distract drivers.

“Any level of risk is too high when it comes to safety behind the wheel,” McKinley said. “While driving, focus on just one task: Driving.”