Drivers Dialed Into an Accident’

March 1, 2005

More motorists than ever are using cellular phones while they drive, according to the latest survey released Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In 2004, at any given daylight moment, an estimated 8 percent of all motorists in the U.S., or about 1.2 million drivers, were using cellular phones (both hand-held and hands-free) while operating their vehicles. This compares to 6 percent in 2002 and 4 percent in 2000.

The survey also estimated that 5 percent of motorists in 2004, or about 800,000 drivers, were using hand-held cellular phones at any given daylight time, compared to 4 percent of drivers in 2002 and 3 percent in 2000.

The latest cellular phone use observations, conducted as part of the agency’s annual National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), compared 2004 wireless phone use estimates with data collected in 2002 and 2000. The observational survey was conducted between June 7 and July 11, 2004, at 1,200 scientifically selected road sites across the country. In some instances, the roadside observational data were supplemented by NHTSA telephone surveys.

Among the latest findings:

• Hand-held cellular phone use increased among drivers between the ages of 16 and 24, from 5 percent in 2002 to 8 percent in 2004.

• For all age groups, hand-held cellular phone use increased among female drivers, from 4 percent in 2002 to 6 percent in 2004. Men using hand-held cellular phones remained steady at 4 percent from 2002 to 2004.

• Motorists are more likely to use phones when driving alone. In 2004, 6 percent of drivers traveling alone were holding cellular phones, compared to 2 percent of drivers who had at least one passenger. However, drivers who had at least one child passenger (7 years old or younger) were as likely to use a hand-held cellular phone as were drivers with no children on board (both at 5 percent of observed drivers in 2004).

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