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News re behind-the-wheel phone use, safety not getting better

How many Americans use their mobile phones at least occasionally when behind the wheel and working their way through traffic?

Reportedly, close to 70 million of them.

That's food for thought, isn't it?

And there's this, too: Many of those motorists are chatty, with their exchanges being far longer than the time it takes to simply signal an "I'm on the way" message or other short communication.

If you're driving in Mississippi, for example (the state faring worst nationally in a phone-use study), the "average" motorist you see with a phone to mouth is on his or her mobile device for nearly 8% of total driving time. Drivers in other states aren't far off that mark.

The author of the above study is Zendrive, a company that uses smartphone data to measure drivers' behind-the-wheel behaviors and performance. Zendrive's findings culled from examination of approximately 4.5 million motorists driving many billions of miles reveal lots of information. The most revealing takeaway might be that distracted driving as measured by motorists' time spent on the phone is a growing problem in every state except for Vermont. That state bans handheld phones, with law enforcers reportedly making strong efforts to spot and penalize offenders.

Zendrive cites a clear link between increasing in-cabin distractions and a growing national death toll on roads and highways. The National Safety Council states that there were more than 40,000 auto-linked deaths last year.

Can that number be reduced? Arguably it can, but perhaps only if safety regulators draft and rigidly enforce more stringent anti-phone laws.

For the record, Indiana's laws concerning behind-the-wheel phone use are fairly mainstream. Indiana joins most other states in banning texting while driving (it might surprise some readers that texting is not banned everywhere across the country). Motorists under 18 are also prohibited from using phones while driving in Indiana.

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