Survey: Majority of Drivers Who Own Cell Phones Use Them Despite Risks

Most drivers who own cell phones use them while driving even though almost all of them believe it is dangerous to do so. A quarter of drivers with cell phones sends or receives text messages while driving. Most drivers with cell phones use hand-held rather than hands-free phones although they believe that hands-free phones are safer. Even in states where it is illegal for drivers to use hand-held phones, half of cell phone users do so. This Harris Poll also shows that most drivers who use cell phones believe that using hands-free phones is safer than using hand-held phones, contrary to the evidence of available research that suggests that it is the minds, not the hands, of drivers that are adversely affected by talking on the phone.

These are some of the findings of The Harris Poll®, a new nationwide survey of 2,681 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 11 and 18, 2009 by Harris Interactive®. A 2003 study by the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis estimated that cell phone use while driving contributed to six percent of crashes, which equated to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year. The study also put the annual financial toll of cell phone-related crashes at $43 billion.

Key findings in this Harris Poll include:

  • 72 percent of those who drive and own cell phones say they use them to talk while they are driving;
  • Most of these people (66 percent) say they usually use hand-held rather than hands-free telephones to talk;
  • Even in states that have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, half (49 percent) of cell phone users use hand-held, rather than hands-free, phones;
  • Only 2 percent of those who use cell phones while driving believe this is not dangerous at all. Most believe it is very dangerous (26 percent), dangerous (24 percent) or somewhat dangerous (33 percent);
  • Seventy-one percent of those who use cell phones while driving believes that hands-free cell phones are safer than hand-held phones;
  • Younger drivers are more likely than older drivers to talk on the phone while driving. Most (58 percent) “Matures” (people older than Baby Boomers, currently aged 64 or over) who drive and own cell phones say they do not use their cell phones while driving; and,
  • A quarter of drivers with cell phones report using them to send or receive text messages while driving.

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