Both are equally likely to cause an accident, according to research the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) squelched. Today the full body of research on driver distractions is being made public for the first time since the studies began in 2003. The New York Times broke the story on its front page this morning.
It seems that certain unnamed members of Congress, including members of the House Appropriations Committee, pressured NHTSA officials into withholding their research, even though it found that cell phone use (even the hands-free kind) and texting were deadly. The researchers “estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002.” Hands-free headsets didn’t eliminate the risk, since the conversation itself caused distraction.
found that drivers using a hand-held device were at 1.3 times greater risk of a crash or near crash, and at three times the risk when dialing compared with other drivers.
Texting? Forget it. You might as well be driving from the passenger seat.
Whether pressure came from the cell phone industry or not is unknown, but Congress has once again worked to promote a special interest at the expense of the general good. And those in the Bush administration, including Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, should be held accountable. This time, these guys actually have blood on their hands.
It will take a massive campaign to get people to stop phoning while driving. Is that possible? Is it desirable?