CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Studies show that a driver on a cell phone is more likely to get into an accident than someone who is not on a cell phone. Every year in North Carolina, an estimated 1,500 car crashes are blamed on cell phones.
A truck driver involved in a
fatal collision in Robeson County
this week involving a stopped school bus said he was reaching for his cell phone when he hit the bus from behind, killing a 5-year-old girl.
Most crashes involving cell phones are not deadly, but experts said there is a common thread.
"They are twice as likely to end up in a rear-end collision than if they're not using a cell phone," said Eric Rodgman, an analyst with the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.
A UNC study released in March found drivers involved in crashes while talking on the cell phone typically failed to reduce their speed, ran through red lights, followed other cars too closely, failed to yield or went too fast.
North Carolina law does not ban cell phone use by drivers, but several states do.
Lawmakers in North Carolina tried twice in the last couple of years to force drivers to hang up their cell phones or use a hands-free device. Both efforts failed.
"I think we need some legislation controlling it," said Rep. Mickey Michaux. "I think it will come up again particularly in light of what happened in recent days."
"I think it's ridiculous, it's terribly unsafe. I've seen more accidents caused by people talking on cell phones," sia a driver.
Some drivers have firsthand knowledge of the dangers associated with driving with a cellphone
"My son flipped a car once reaching for his cellphone. It's not the thing to do," another driver said.
"Say [the phone] is on the seat beside you -- it falls on the floor, you reach to get it, your head is down even for just a minute. That's all it takes to make a mistake while driving," Rodgman said.
Investigators believe it was that kind of mistake Tuesday that cost a 5-year-old Robeson County girl her life.
New York was the first state to ban hand-held cell phones while driving. Washington, D.C. passed legislation last week.
The number of people using cell phones has increased to 128 million, up from 94 million in 2000.
Harvard researchers found that drivers talking on a cell phone cause about 6 percent of accidents each year; about 2,600 people are killled and 330,000 are injured.