Focal Point: 'Fatal Distraction'

Posted August 23, 2010 11:27 a.m. EDT
Updated July 18, 2012 6:11 p.m. EDT

Air date: Thursday, August 26, 7 p.m.

Cell phone use has exploded in the last decade and most of us are probably guilty of using our cell phones while driving. But research shows that drivers on cell phones are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than other drivers and distracted drivers are responsible for nearly 30 percent of crashes.

As two horrific accidents in North Carolina show, the results can be deadly.

Last Mother’s Day in Greensboro a women was rear-ended on Interstate 40 by a truck driver on a cell phone. Two of her children were killed.

Last December, just three days before Christmas, an Orange County woman was struck by an Amtrak train killing her and her five-year-old son. The highway patrol said she had her cell phone in her hand and inadvertently went under the crossing gate as it was coming down.

While there can be many distractions while driving, such as eating, tuning the radio and talking to passengers, researchers say talking on a cell phone is especially distracting because it impairs cognitive function. They say drivers using cell phones may have their eyes on the road, but their minds are not. While research on using cell phones while driving continues, state lawmakers have already banned cell phone use by school bus drivers and drivers under 18 years old. They have also banned texting while driving. But efforts to pass a ban on cell phone use by all drivers has stalled. Many lawmakers question whether it’s enforceable and conservative activists say such a law is unnecessary.

Focal Point: “Fatal Distraction” examines the deadly consequences of cell phone use by drivers in two tragic accidents in North Carolina, the research on cell phone use while driving and the political debate over whether it should be banned outright.

Related links

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

UNC Center Highway Safety Research Center

Host: Monica Laliberte

Writer/Producer: Clay Johnson

Photographer/Editor: Jay Jennings