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AAA study suggests phone usage while driving is symptomatic, rather than being the cause of distracted driving

We hear a lot these days about distracted driving and how the proliferation of mobile phones has created a veritable epidemic of texting-related fatalities. The trouble is, the accident fatality rate has been in a steady decline, without so much as the slightest uptick since the rise of mobile phone use. But surely there have been distracted driving deaths, so why hasn’t this been reflected in overall fatality statistics? A new study from the AAA, known as the 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index, suggests that drivers who text while driving are likely to also have other unsafe habits while behind the wheel.

The study showed that, of those drivers who had used the phone while driving during the last month, 65 percent had broken the speed limit, 53 percent had sent texts or emails, 44 percent  had driven while drowsy and 29 percent had driven without a seatbelt. Those numbers are pretty high, especially when compared with drivers who hadn’t used the phone while driving. Of these drivers, 31 percent had broken the speed limit, 3 percent had sent a text or email, 14 percent had driven drowsy and 16 percent had driven without a seatbelt. So it would seem that those using their phones while driving are the same ones that already had an unsafe attitude towards driving, and that the phone isn’t actually creating any new unsafe drivers after all. As The Car Connection reports, the study also shows why efforts to curb this practice have proven so difficult. It shows that 89 percent of those surveyed believe that other drivers using cell phones pose a risk to their safety, but that 69 percenthad used their phone. Even in the best-case scenario, there’s a lot of overlap there. So people are aware of the danger, they’re just doing it anyway.

The study comes not long after a similar study China  conducted in order to find why a ban on phone usage while driving hadn’t caused any kind of decline in accidents. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese study reached the same conclusion, but this obviously means that the job of making the roads safer is far more complex than a simple anti-texting campaign could ever fix. That said, make no mistake, texting while driving is hideously unsafe.