Bicycle Diaries: Hands free hazard

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Hands free hazard

feds keeps cager
safety data secret

Today's NYTimes reports that the Federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration not only refused a request to research the link between cellphone use and road accidents but chose not to publicize previous research and warnings ... back in 2003! Fortunately, the Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen filed a successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the agency's findings. And The NYTimes has published the documents here. Some of the more amazing, but not surprising, excerpts from the article include:
The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002.

...hands-free headsets did not eliminate the serious accident risk. The reason: a cellphone conversation itself, not just holding the phone, takes drivers’ focus off the road, studies showed.

The research mirrors other studies about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel. Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.

“We’re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up,” said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety.

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