Some Nevada Drivers Still Using Hand-Held Phones

October 23, 2012

About a fourth of Nevadans continue to use handheld telephones while driving, despite a state law banning the practice that took effect Jan. 1, according to a statewide survey.

University of Nevada, Reno researchers said the third annual survey of Nevadans’ driving behavior and attitudes released last week found about 27 percent still talk on handheld phones and 48 percent use hands-free phones while driving. About 13 percent send text messages or emails while driving.

Fifty-six percent said their phone call usage while driving has stayed about the same, while 26 percent said it declined and 17 percent answered they had never used a phone while driving.

UNR’s Center for Research Design and Analysis conducted the telephone survey of 851 Nevadans in July – 38 percent of those on cellphones and the rest on traditional land lines.

Researchers acknowledged it’s not a scientific survey because people don’t always respond honestly when asked if they break the law. But they said self-reported surveys provide valuable information in general that can’t be obtained other ways.

The biggest reason those gave for cutting down on cellphone use was the new state itself. Just about half – 48.6 percent – cited that, while about 33 percent said increased awareness of safety issues played a role. About 8 percent said they changed their habits because they didn’t want to get a ticket and 4 percent cited pressure from others.

Fines for the offenses range from $72 for the first citation to up to $250 for subsequent tickets, but a significant number of Nevada drivers surveyed doubt they’ll be cited even if they do break the law. Sixty percent said it was “very likely” or “somewhat likely” they’d be ticketed while 39 percent said they’d be “very unlikely” or “somewhat unlikely” that would happen.

About 95 percent said they were aware of the law and only 1 percent didn’t believe there was such a law, according to the study funded by the Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety in agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Other behavior considered distracting to driving that drivers acknowledged to:

  • 90 percent: adjust controls
  • 74.1 percent: eat or drink
  • 27.1 percent: operate GPS
  • 6.5 percent: engage in personal grooming
  • 3.6 percent: browse or search the Internet
  • 0.2 percent: watch TV or DVD

Among other things, the survey showed a rise in Nevadans who say they always use seatbelts, from 85 percent last year to 91 percent in 2012.

Just under 10 percent of the respondents acknowledged in last year’s survey they exceed the speed limit by at least 5 mph most of the time, compared to nearly 14 percent who said that’s the case in the new results. About one in five Nevadans acknowledged in last year’s survey they drive faster than 70 mph on interstates about half the time compared with about one in six in the new survey.

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