Distracted Driving

A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights survey results that reveal 69% of Americans between the ages of 18 to 64 had talked on a handheld cell phone while driving within the last 30 days. In addition, 30% admitted to texting or emailing while driving during the same time frame.


Seven other countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom) were also included in the survey all of which fared better (some much better) than the United States in percentage of people who talked on their cell phone while driving. In the United Kingdom only 21% of survey respondents stated they had talked on their cell phone while driving. Portugal is in a tie with the United States for worst texting and driving country with 30% admitting to combining the activities.

The take away message I got from the report was that distracted driving remains a major problem and that the United States is the worst. An accompanying editorial note to the MMWR highlighted that European countries tend to have strict cell phone use laws but that the variation seen among the counties could not be explained by the presence or absence of strict or lenient laws. There is significant variation among countries with similar laws.

What could potentially explain the sometimes-significant differences from country to country? Culture? Social norms surrounding cell phone use? I was under the impression that cell phone use while driving, especially texting, was universally frowned upon but it looks like I might be wrong about that.

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