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San Diegans And Distracted Driving

Evening Edition

Aired 4/10/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Dr. Linda Hill, clinical professor in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine

Officer Mary Bailey, California Highway Patril


While many states, including California, have made it illegal to use a hand-held cellphone or text while driving, it's still the number one reason behind distracted driving crashes in our state.

There were approximately 3,300 deaths and 400,000 injuries nationwide in 2011 due to collisions involving distracted driving, according to experts in the Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety (TREDS) program at the University of California School of Medicine.

A new survey aimed at finding trends and habits of San Diego drivers reveals some startling findings.

Many San Diegans now use hands-free devices while driving – 92 percent, according to the Adult Cell Phone Survey, but 56 percent are still using a hand-held phone. Adults with children under 11 in the car report they were significantly more likely to text and to talk on their hand-held phone.

Dr. Linda Hill, clinical professor in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine led the research. She says the goal of the survey "is to understand distracted driving behavior and work on strategies to improve road safety."

More than 700 San Diegans participated.

Texting while driving

Distracted driving isn't limited to cellphone use or texting. According to the California Highway Patrol, anything from drinking coffee to managing children can take your mind off the road at a critical moment.

"Studies have shown that phoning and driving increases the risk of crashes four-fold," says Dr. Hill, "with hands-free and hand-held devices equally dangerous."

Meanwhile, legislation is trying to catch up with technology. A bill has been introduced in Sacramento that would ban hands-free texting while driving.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | April 10, 2013 at 11:41 a.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Let's do the American thing and declare a War on Cell Phones.... or a War on Cars...

I don't know which one would be better, but we obviously need to do a sweeping ban on one or the other, if not both.

The prohibition approach has solved our problems with guns and drugs, so let's stay the course!

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Avatar for user 'Victor123'

Victor123 | June 10, 2013 at 1:06 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

The problem is that the law does not address the real problem which is talking on a cell phone while driving. Holding the phone in your hand is not the distracting part. When the law bans all talking on cell phone while driving then I will stop.
I find it takes less concentration to talk while holding the phone in my hand because it is easier to hear the conversation on the handset.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | June 10, 2013 at 3:56 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

The other day, I saw a young woman at a red light drinking Starbucks and texting on a phone that was outfitted with pink shiny rhinestones. After sending her text and taking a gulp of Starbucks, she proceeded to apply eyeshadow. Shortly thereafter, the light tube green an se continued the application of eyeshadow as her vehicle moved.

I don't think laws or statistics get through to this type of person.

I just have to assume everyone on the road is like her and drive defensively.

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Avatar for user 'casualobserver'

casualobserver | June 10, 2013 at 9:22 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Research indicates that there is no significant difference between using a hands-free cell phone and a hand-held phone when driving. The impairment in concentration while talking on a cell phone of either variety is comparable to that experienced while driving drunk. The author of the legislation allowing the use of hands-free devices primarily emphasized the supposed safety benefits of drivers having two hands on the wheel yet provided no factual research to support this contention, while ignoring the research which has indicated no significant safety advantage of hands-free devices. If having two hands on the wheel were the central issue, drivers of manual transmission vehicles would not be able to operate their vehicles safely. The bottom line is that driving is primarily a visual-motor task which accesses a different part of the brain than conversation. Once you begin to concentrate on responding to a conversation you are redirecting your attention from the visual-motor centers to the language centers in the brain which distracts from the processing which is necessary to safely operate a vehicle. It is a very simple engineering matter to manufacture cell phones which will not operate while the vehicle's engine is running, which is the simple solution to the current problem.

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