There are several major thoroughfares in the Birmingham metro area. Interstate 59 runs north and south from the Alabama/Georgia border into Mississippi, ending in Slidell, Louisiana. Interstate 65 runs from the Tennessee border, splits the Decatur/Huntsville area while crossing the Tennessee River and then passes through Birmingham and Montgomery before ending in Mobile. Interstate 20 runs with Interstate 59 west to east entering the state at the Tombigbee River and Black Warrior River delta country through Tuscaloosa until Birmingham. In Birmingham, Interstate 20 is an east-west roadway passing through Anniston along the way to the Georgia border and then Atlanta. Highway 280 is a heavily traveled roadway that begins in Birmingham and winds through Childersburg, Sylacauga, the Lake Martin/Alexander City area and then Opelika. Highway 280 is also the major route from the Birmingham area to Auburn University, the Loveliest Village on the Plains. What is the point of the highway/interstate geography lesson and what do these thoroughfares have in common? The answer is the wide spread use of cell phones that I have witnessed by drivers on these roadways. I travel all these roads on a regular basis. I see way too many drivers using cell phones, blackberries, etc. It is not hard to spot the drivers using a cell phone, texting, emailing, checking stock quotes, etc. They swerve and weave; they speed or drive at unsafe slow speeds.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report on Cell Phone driving and research update and provided the following:
- Over half of U.S. drivers report having used a cell phone while driving.
- One in seven drivers admits to text messaging while driving.
- Young drivers were overwhelmingly more likely to text message, and somewhat more likely to talk on cell phones while driving than older drivers.
- Higher levels of education were also found to be associated with higher levels of cell phone use and text messaging while driving, especially among males.
- Dialing a hand-held device was associated with nearly triple the odds of being involved in a crash or near-crash, and talking or listening to a hand-held device was associated with about a 30% increase in the odds of being involved in a crash or near-crash.
Further, other studies have shown:
- Distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held or hands free) extends a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08%. (University of Utah study)
- The No.1 source of driver inattention is use of a wireless device. (Virginia Tech study/NHTSA)
- Drivers that use cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (NHTSA, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
- Driving while distracted is a factor in 25% of police reported crashes.
- Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. (Carnegie Mellon study)
For those of you who are a “user”, there is help and it is very simple: hang up and drive.