What Are the Dangers of Using Cell Phones While Driving?

By Scott Cornell

A 2006 study by the University of Utah maintains that talking on your phone while driving is as dangerous as drunken driving.
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According to DistractedDriving.gov, more than 3,000 people were killed in accidents involving a distracted driver in 2010; another 416,000 were injured. A big culprit of distracted driving accidents, for drivers, passengers and bystanders, is cell phone use. Arguably, the best way to minimize cell phone usage -- and its potential hazards -- while driving is to educate people of its dangers.

Talking and Driving

According to Carnegie Mellon, driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity while driving by 37 percent. That's because in many instances, not only are you speaking on the phone, which can distract you from paying attention to the road, but unless you're using a Bluetooth device, you likely have one hand on your phone as well. That means you have only one hand on the steering wheel, thereby limiting your maneuverability. A 2006 study conducted by the University of Utah states that drivers on cell phones pose as much of a danger as drunk drivers.

Texting and Driving

A driver's eyes are off the road for 4.6 seconds when sending or receiving a text message, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). A lot can happen in 4.6 seconds, and if your eyes aren't on the road, you're putting yourself and everyone around you in danger due to texting and its visual, cognitive and manual aspects. VTTI also states that texting and driving creates a crash risk that's 23 times more severe than driving when not distracted.

Cell Phone Use Stats

DistractedDriving.gov estimates that at any given time there are 800,000 vehicles in the U.S. being driven by someone using a hand-held phone. The website also states that drivers under the age of 20 are more prone to distracted driving. Even a hands-free phone puts drivers at risk due to the cognitive distraction it provides, which may cause drivers to miss audio and visual cues on the road.


In an effort to reduce distracted driving accidents from talking and texting, many state and local governments have taken action. For example, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as of 2012, Montana, Arizona, Hawaii, South Dakota, Florida and South Carolina are the only states that don't have either a partial or full texting ban in place. In contrast, 10 states and the District of Columbia ban texting on a hand-held device while driving. Several cities, such as Troy, Mich., have passed distracted driving laws that prohibit drivers from engaging in activity that could distract them while behind the wheel.