More US motorists increase their risk of being in a car crash by talking, texting, and emailing on cell phones than drivers in 7 European countries, according to federal health officials.
Worldwide, road traffic crashes contribute to an estimated 1.3 million deaths annually. Experts know that risk factors for crashes include speed and alcohol, but recent evidence suggests that using mobile devices while driving quadruples the risk of being in a crash.
In today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, investigators present data from self-reported online surveys conducted in 2011. The surveys involved 3696 people in the United States and 10 338 people in European countries—Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Respondents answered questions centered on their mobile phone use while driving during the previous 30 days. The prevalence of talking on a cell phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days ranged from 21% in the United Kingdom to 69% in the United States. The prevalence of drivers who had read or sent text or email messages at least once while driving in the same time period ranged from 15% in Spain to 31% in Portugal and the United States.
In the United States, mobile phone use characteristics while driving didn’t differ much by sex. A significantly larger percentage of both men and women aged 25 to 44 years reported talking on a cell phone while driving compared with those aged 55 to 64 years. Also, significantly more men and women aged 18 to 34 said they had read or sent text or email messages while driving compared with those aged 45 to 64 years.
To reduce mobile phone use while driving, the study authors suggest that countries could consider adopting road traffic injury prevention strategies such as new legislation and high-visibility police enforcement, which has been successful in reducing road safety risks such as alcohol-impaired driving and seat belt nonuse.