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The Gift Of Gab: More US Drivers Than Europeans Use Phones On The Road

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Distracted driving

Distracted driving

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You know it, we know it, everyone knows it: distracted driving is a problem, and it's getting worse

But where is the problem worst of all? You'd think that since cell phones are now a global phenomenon, distracted driving would affect every country on the planet, and that it would be most pronounced in technologically oriented countries where cell phones have become a part of everyday life.

And you'd be right. But according to a study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the problem is particularly bad here in America.

The CDC examined data from two studies: the 2011 EuroPNStyles and HealthStyles surveys, which polled drivers between the ages of 18 and 64. Researchers found that a whopping 69% of U.S. respondents had talked on their mobile phones while driving within the past 30 days.

Europeans couldn't match that number. The closest runner-up was Portugal, where the figure hit 59%. In the U.K., it was 21%. 

Stats on texts and emails, however, were more balanced. In both the U.S. and Portugal, 31% of drivers said that they'd read or sent emails or texts within the past 30 days. At the low end of the scale, the figure in the U.K. was again 21%.

The moral of the story? Americans are far more prone to talk on the go (perhaps because of our very long commutes), but texting and emailing may be less culturally specific phenomena.

Also: Portugal could be picking up some of our bad habits.

We'd like to see a similar study conducted in countries like Japan and South Korea, where cell phone penetration is high and mobile networks are especially robust. Maybe those folks could give us a run for our money.

While we're waiting for that to happen, you can find details of the CDC study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


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  1. Stopping distracted driving requires changing behaviors. When a phone signals an incoming call or message, the desire to respond is almost Pavlovian.

    Families can help each other avoid the strong temptation to pick up smartphones while on the road with an app for iPhones and Android phones called, Canary. Canary reports to an accountability partner (e.g. parent, spouse, friend, employer) and creates a log entry anytime a person uses a smartphone in any way (including texting, tweeting, surfing the web, etc.), while traveling at least 12 mph. Users find the resulting reports sobering (most have no idea how often they are risking their lives and the lives of others).

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