In 2003, researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a long-term study to examine the risks posed by drivers who use cell phones while driving. Then, as know, it was believed that distractions caused by such use represented a serious safety risk to drivers on American roadways.
But because of politics, the study was never undertaken. According to reports, the NHTSA chose not to make public copious amount of research data for fear of angering members of Congress.
After discovering this fact, two consumer groups filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain documents, which will be published on the New York Times website (click here). The researchers estimate that drivers using cell phones account 240,000 in 2003, including 922 fatalities. The research also suggested cell phone users were four times more likely to cause an auto accident than other drivers, and that hands-free devices did not remove the risk of crashes, because it was the conversations that were distracting, not necessarily holding the phone.
According to news reports, the concerns was that the agency would use the information to lobby states to pass laws prohibiting cell phone use in the car, laws strongly opposed by the powerful cell phone industry.
California State Senator Joe Simitian, who tried to pass a hands-free cell phone law from 2001 to 2005 over industry objections, said the research data would have been helpful in moving hands-free legislation forward, “Years went by when lives could have been saved.”
Source: New York Times
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