Public Strongly Supports Legislation to Curb Distracted Driving-Yeah Right!

[tweetmeme]Based on the results of public opinion polls taken from 2001-2009, “the public strongly supports legislation to curb distracted driving,” according to the National Safety Council (NSC).   The NSC reports that the surveys looked at behavior, attitudes about risk and support for legislation banning driver activities, such as talking on a cell phone.  The surveys compiled by NSC  are from the following:

  • The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS),
  • Harris Interactive,
  • Liberty Mutual Group,
  • Nationwide Insurance,
  • New York Times/CBS,
  • Pew Research Center and
  • Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Some of the opinion polls show support for laws banning texting is very high at 80 to 97 percent, according to three surveys conducted in 2009 by Nationwide Insurance, New York Times/CBS and Quinnipiac University.

Public support for laws banning handheld phones has been consistently high since 2001, with support levels of 73 to 86 percent.   Most polls report at least 80 percent support, according to 10 national and state public opinion polls conducted from 2001-2009.  

While a  minority(43 percent) of the public supports a total cell phone ban, which includes banning handheld, hands-free and texting, according to the AAAFTS in 2009.   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.

The public is generally quick to agree with the risks of cell phone usage while driving,  when asked if texting while driving is dangerous a whopping  95 percent of respondents agreed that it is completely or somewhat unacceptable and 87 percent said texting or e-mailing while driving is a very serious threat to safety, yet according to a Harris Interactive poll conduct in May 2009, 72% of those who drive and own cell phones say they use them to talk while they are driving.  Drivers are still not getting the message that it isn’t as much about the use of their hands that is dangerous as it is the distracted mind that creates the hazard.

The NSC and other organizations are valiantly trying to convince America that public support for legislation banning texting and/or e-mailing while driving is very high, (80 to 97 percent, Nationwide, New York Times/CBS and Quinnipiac), but the sad fact remains that Americans are still just self-dillusional enough to believe that the dangers only exist with other drivers.

Support for legislation banning handheld phones is high only when no specific legislation is named.  It would be interesting to see how much these numbers would change if specific legislation were named (see our current National healthcare debate; support for universal healthcare is very high, but support for the proposed legislation hasn’t been a smooth ride to say the least).  Safety legislation tends to be supported in abstract concepts but loses its luster when people realize that it isn’t always about the other guy.  Sometimes the proposed legislation is aimed you YOU!   The belief that banning handheld phones will increase safety is strongly supported, however many of those same people also mistakenly believe the other guy on the road is the problem.



  1. Krystal Kid says:

    80% percent of all rear end collisions (the most frequent vehicle accident) are caused by driver inattention, following too closely, external distraction (talking on cell phones, shaving, applying makeup, fiddling with the radio or CD player, texting, etc.) and poor judgment. I doubt if we’ll ever stop the madness so I got one of these

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