Distracted driving persists, concludes Fresno State prof’s new study

By | January 29, 2010 | Briefs

A study of distracted driving by Dr. Tamyra Pierce, a media effects researcher at Fresno State, indicates that many motorists still disobey laws banning cell phone use, resulting in documented near-disasters.

In “An Observational Analysis of Distracted Driving,” Pierce watched traffic on a highway, city roads and the Fresno State campus during peak morning and evening driving times.

One big rig truck driver – distracted by talking without a hands-free device – was observed swerving into the side median, reports Pierce, who last fall participated in the Distracted Driving Summit convened in Washington, D.C., by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Besides the swerving trucker, one of every three of 582 highway drivers were observed to be distracted while driving. Of highway drivers, Pierce said, “48 were observed veering into other lanes and 17 almost collided with another vehicle by veering into the other lane.”

During campus observation of 2,582 drivers, 18 nearly ran into the back of another car, four ran a stop sign and one almost hit a pedestrian, Pierce said. Seventeen percent of all the drivers observed were engaged in some distracting activity.

“Using cell phones or doing anything else while driving takes our eyes off the road and our hands off the wheel but, most importantly, it takes our mind off the road, which leads to a decrease in our ability to react in the split seconds that it takes for an accident to occur,” she added.

Pierce hopes her study will help illustrate to motorists that this is as serious a problem as drunk driving. She said, “Since it’s obvious laws alone are not doing enough to prevent drivers from using cell phones while driving, we must bring awareness to this issue so that no other family has to lose a loved one.”

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