New Research Shows One of Every Six Drivers in School Zones is Distracted

Tue Sep 1, 2009 7:00am EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

Unbelted, afternoon, and female drivers are more likely to be distracted - 
putting child pedestrians at risk

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As kids head back to school,
new research from Safe Kids USA shows that one out of every six drivers in
school zones is distracted by the use of cell phones, eating, drinking,
smoking, reaching behind, grooming and reading. The study also found that
unbelted drivers are 34 percent more likely to be distracted than belted
drivers, afternoon drivers are 22 percent more likely to be distracted than
morning drivers, and females are 21 percent more likely to be distracted than
males.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080410/DC19130LOGO-b) 

The study, "Characteristics of Distracted Drivers in School Zones: A National
Report," consisted of more than 40,000 observational road-side surveys
conducted by local Safe Kids researchers in 20 locations across the United
States. Use of electronics (such as cell phones, PDAs and Smartphones) was the
leading category of distraction while driving at 9.8 percent. This is a 2.5
percent increase over a 2008 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
survey that showed a rate of 7.3 percent. 

"The public expects drivers to be on their best behavior when they are near
schools, however the new study shows the opposite is true when it comes to
distracted driving," said Moira Donahue, Director of the Walk This Way
program, Safe Kids' pedestrian safety program. "With recent research
demonstrating that the driving skills of a distracted driver are as bad as or
worse than an intoxicated driver, the overall relevance of this study is
clear. Almost one in six drivers in a school zone behaves like a drunk
driver."

The finding that afternoon drivers are 22 percent more likely to be distracted
is significant because throughout the year one in three child pedestrian
deaths occur between 3 and 7 p.m., making afternoons the most dangerous time
for children to walk. Drivers who were not wearing a seat belt were the most
likely group in the study to also be driving distracted, meaning drivers
engaging in one risky behavior are more likely to engage in multiple unsafe
driving behaviors.

While the debate over laws governing hand-held electronic device use while
driving continues, simply having a law on the books may somewhat decrease the
prevalence of distracted driving. The study, which covered communities in 15
states showed that those states with laws regulating cell phone or hand-held
electronic device use in a vehicle are 13 percent less likely to have
distracted drivers in school zones.  

"Multitasking while driving can have deadly consequences," said Donahue.
"Drivers need to shut off their phones and pay attention to the road,
especially in areas that are filled with children." 
Safe Kids Walk This Way, a grassroots pedestrian safety initiative in more
than 600 schools nationwide, is made possible through support from program
sponsor FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX). Through this year-round program, children
learn safe pedestrian behaviors; school communities identify the pedestrian
hazards surrounding their schools; and school pedestrian safety committees and
task forces lead efforts to educate pedestrians and drivers about safe
behaviors, enforce traffic laws and improve environments for child
pedestrians. The study on distracted drivers in school zones was made possible
through a grant from FedEx.

For more information about the new report on distracted drivers, tips for
drivers and pedestrians or background on the Walk This Way program, call
202-662-0600 or visit www.usa.safekids.org/wtw/. 

Safe Kids USA is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of
organizations with the mission of preventing unintentional childhood injury,
the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. More than
600 coalitions in the United States and nineteen member countries worldwide
bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations,
foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families.


SOURCE  Safe Kids Worldwide

Kate Jones of Safe Kids Worldwide, +1-202-662-4478, kjones@safekids.org
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