Another state has taken a stand against distracted driving. This time it’s Nevada, which enacted a law this month banning handheld cell phone use while driving.

Is it surprising that using a cell phone impairs your ability to drive? Not if you think about it. After all, pretty much anything that pulls your attention off the road is bound to diminish your driving skills — this includes eating potato chips, applying makeup, mulling over the morning crossword puzzle, or planning out your next move in Sudoku.

Yet none of these activities has risen up to challenge the cell phone as poster child for distracted driving. Why?

Cell phone use while driving: it’s all in the numbers

Cell phones are everywhere (at least it seems that way). According to the CTIA (a trade association serving the telecommunications industry), there are more wireless connections than people in the U.S. And with the rise of smartphones (and all those handy apps), these wonderful gadgets are more enticing than ever.

But there’s a downside to this technological trend. With so many distractions, people have trouble keeping their attention where it belongs: on the road. As a result, the National Safety Council estimates 23 percent of traffic accidents each year involve cell phone use. Why are cell phone users so accident prone? The answer’s in the numbers.

The first number is one: the number of things people can do really well at any given time. According to a National Safety Council report, multitasking is a myth (PDF). So if you think you can drive and update your Facebook status at the same time, you’re wrong.

Add to this the fact that reaction times double for drivers who are texting, and that these drivers are 11 times more likely to miss important clues in their surroundings. Chances are these numbers back up what you’ve probably already observed on your own: drivers on their cell phones are a hazard on the road.

But what can you do?

The obvious answer: don’t use your cell phone while driving. This is a good start. But don’t think you’re alone in the fight against drivers on their cell phones. From coast to coast, 34 states (and D.C.) have put laws in place to curb cell phone use while driving.

So take a cue from the Silver State* (and 33 others) and the next time you get in your car, put your cell phone and temptation well out of reach. The rest of us out on the road will thank you for it.

*Through the end of the year, Nevada law enforcement will only give warnings, but come next year violators will see fines starting at $50 and escalating to $250.

Related links

Nevada DMV’s pamphlet on distracted driving (PDF)
State-by-state cell phone and texting laws
Effect of cell phone use on driving-related brain activity

Around the nation


about Shawn

With more than 4 years' experience, Shawn spent his Esurance tenure helping make car insurance info as accessible, engaging, and informative as possible while simultaneously managing an abundance of complex editorial spreadsheets.