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Driven to distraction (August 27, 2002)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It's not just drinking coffee, tuning the radio and reading a map anymore. Today, drivers are...


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — It’s not just drinking coffee, tuning the radio and reading a map anymore. Today, drivers are distracted by cell phones, personal digital assistants and lap top computers.

The blurring line between the office and the driver’s seat is raising fears among authorities, especially in light of a new report issued in California.

Already, cell phones, in-car electronics and radio-CD systems represent the leading cause of inattention in crashes that killed 6,516 Californians and injured 413,913 last year.

U.S. officials believe up to 30 per cent of crashes are caused by driver distractions that include mobile communications devices.

A March report by the National Conference of State Legislatures suggests device-related distractions that killed an estimated 600 to 1,000 motorists in 2001 could kill 2,000 a year by 2004.

Academics have coined the word “carcooning” to describe how drivers are increasingly outfitting their vehicles for comfort, entertainment and productivity, and the high-tech inattention is cause for alarm.


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