A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that only about 3 percent of U.S. drivers are talking on cell phones at any given time, but drivers of vans and sport utility vehicles apparently talk the most.
The NHTSA study estimates that 500,000 drivers of passenger vehicles are talking on hand-held phones during any given daytime moment throughout the week. Researchers did not include those who used hands-free equipment.
During non-rush hours, the highest use rate observed during the survey – 8 percent – was by drivers of vans and SUVs. Use rates by drivers of all types of passenger vehicles were almost twice as high during non-rush hours as during rush hours.
Female drivers were observed using cell phones more frequently than male drivers, particularly among female drivers of vans and SUVs. Their use rate was nearly twice as high as that of male drivers.
Both adult and young adult drivers were found to use cell phones at roughly the same rate, but the use rate for senior (age 70 and over) drivers was much less (1.4 percent overall). Use rates were highest in the Midwest and South, and use was higher on weekdays than weekends.
The research represents the first observational study by NHTSA of active cell phone use by drivers. NHTSA data collectors observed more than 12,000 vehicles between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day of the week during a period spanning October and November of 2000. Drivers were observed at 640 intersections.
The 2000 Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey, a phone survey conducted by NHTSA, estimated that 54 percent of drivers have some type of wireless phone in their vehicle with them. Fifty-five percent reported having their phones on during all or most of their trips, and 73 percent reported using their phone while driving.