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Eye Opener: Driven to Distraction

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Tuesday! Back in 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers -- in part, officials say, because of concerns about angering Congress.

The New York Times reports today that "the full body of research is being made public for the first time by two consumer advocacy groups, which filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the documents."

"The former head of the highway safety agency said he was urged to withhold the research to avoid antagonizing members of Congress who had warned the agency to stick to its mission of gathering safety data but not to lobby states.

"Critics say that rationale and the failure of the Transportation Department, which oversees the highway agency, to more vigorously pursue distracted driving has cost lives and allowed to blossom a culture of behind-the-wheel multitasking.

"The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002.

"The research mirrors other studies about the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel. Research shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | July 21, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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