Mystery solved

Mystery solved

Cell phones aren’t the only reason we crash

By Jennifer Hadley 04/22/2010

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IIn late January, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) ruffled Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s feathers by publishing its honest findings from a study that found insurance claims for car crashes failed to decline after bans on cell phone use while driving were enacted. The nerve of the HLDI! After years of convincing us that we’re all doomed to crash anytime we talk on a cell phone — hands free or not — or if we’re texting, it’s not surprising that LaHood’s Department of Transportation found this report irksome. But I find it rather hysterical.
If you’re like me, you first assume that the reason accidents aren’t on the decline is simply due to the fact that people aren’t obeying the cell phone laws. But Adrian Lund, president of HLDI, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says this is not so. In fact, he’s flat out perplexed as to why crashes are not declining commensurate with the increase of more restrictions.
Lund said, “If crash risk increases with phone use and fewer drivers use phones where it’s illegal to do so, we would expect to see a decrease in crashes. But we aren’t seeing it. … This is surprising too, given what we know about the growing use of cell phones and the risk of phoning while driving. We’re currently gathering data to figure out this mismatch.” 
Since I’m all about helping people out, I consider Lund’s statements to be nothing short of a blatant cry for help. He needs assistance figuring out what’s going on. So, if you’re reading, Mr. Lund, and no doubt you are, I proffer this mind-blowing answer to your perplexing problem: there are innumerable other distractions equally as prone to cause accidents as cell phones. Moreover, I’ve got evidence to back it up; evidence culled from the most reliable source in the world: Facebook.  
Indeed, I took to my account to ask people what they find distracting, cell phones aside, while driving. The response was fantastic. Stacy, a spinning instructor, responded that she was “guilty, guilty, guilty” of checking her GPS system and fiddling with her iPod.
Sarah, who works for Pepperdine University, didn’t respond directly, but I knew from her post a week or so ago that she’d been totally distracted trying to determine if the driver behind her was in fact Steve Carell. (It was, as it turns out). Paula, who is a teacher, replied, “Last night I was watching an action film playing in the SUV in front of me while I was stuck in traffic. I got kind of hooked on trying to figure out which movie it was and changed lanes with it. I think it was GI Jane.” Brett mentioned that applying lipstick while driving was distracting (I’m not sure if he meant generally speaking or if he wears lipstick, but that’s neither here nor there). And my cousin Jana agreed with all of the responses prior to hers, but also mentioned scenery, the hot guy on a Harley who passed her and taking pictures as distractions.
To the list of items that my beloved Facebook friends provided, I’d also like to offer up my two cents on things aside from my phone that distract me. These items include my dog slipping from the center console and getting stuck and crying, which makes me slow down and help the little fella. I’m also fairly distracted by trying to simultaneously drive and read printed (not texted, because I’m a law abider) directions from MapQuest, because I don’t have a GPS system. Flashing billboards, traffic alerts, Amber Alerts and vanity plates all distract me too. That’s to say nothing of being distracted by other drivers.
What say you, Mr. Lund? Have I helped solve your mystery? Is it possible that we’re not crashing less because a whole slew of distractions — not just cell phones — are unavoidable?
I understand if you need to conduct some studies to conclusively prove this, but just don’t go spouting off your findings to LaHood, or everything under the sun is going to be outlawed, and my pup loves his car rides.

Contact Jennifer Hadley at


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