Previously undisclosed documents that have now been made public, courtesy the Freedom of Information Act, show that federal auto safety agencies had access to thousands of pages of research that showed a clear risk of increased number of accidents because of cell phone use by motorists.In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had that information back in 2003, but chose not to make it public.
The documents have been obtained by two consumer safety groups, Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety who filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.The documents have been published by the New York Times.
In 2003, NHTSA researchers proposed conducting a study on the risks of cell phone use by motorists behind a wheel.The study was considered important because of the growing use of cell phones, and the serious risk of driver distraction.The agency turned down the proposal. Not only that, it also failed to make pubic the research it already had which pointed tothe need for urgent laws that could prevent cell phones from becoming the major accident risk we now know them to be.
According to the New York Times, when interviewed, Dr Jeffrey Runge, who was then the NHTSA chief, admitted that the research had been buried for fear of antagonizing Congress, which warned the agency not to use the research to lobby states to change their cell phone and driving laws.The research remained buried, until now.
Atlanta personal injury lawyers have seen the results of the lack of any real cell phone laws with bite.With the advent of new age cell phones that are a virtual smorgasbord of distractions to the motorist – gaming, emails, web browsing, text messaging, Tweeting, and yes, talking – the problem of driver distraction has taken on a whole new meaning.In the rush to fill too much into 24 hours, we have taken multi tasking to extremes, and cell phones have helped us on this destructive journey. The results have been painfully clear. Statistics prove that motorists using cell phones are up to four times more likely to end up in serious accidents, than motorists who are not using their cell phones.
While several states have enacted bans on hand held cell phones while driving, it’s clear that these laws have helped very little. The danger is from the distraction that a conversation causes; not the actual use of the hands to hold the device. It’s time we woke up to reality, and took firmer steps to ban cell phone use behind the wheel to prevent the thousands of accidents traced to such distractions every year.