The Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and the California HighwayPatrol released a new study last week revealing a 39% increase inthe use of cell phones while driving in California.

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“It’s shocking that nearly 10% of motorists were observed usingtheir cell phones while driving a motor vehicle, apotentially-lethal combination,” said OTS director Ronda Craft. “Wewill continue our aggressive public outreach campaign and ourpartnership with law enforcement to educate the public about thedangers of those who drive distracted and put the lives of othersat risk.”

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[Related: New technology prevents cell phone use whiledriving]

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For the first half of 2015, 9.2% of motorists were seen using acell phone while driving, up from 6.6% the previous year. Since theresearch began, the highest level recorded was in 2012 when 10.8%of motorists were spotted using a cell phone while driving.

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Compared to 2014, motorists observed holding a phone to the earwhile driving increased by 0.6%, the use of headsets/Bluetoothdevices increased by 0.5%, and those manipulating a hand-helddevice while driving increased by 1.1%. Although there is nosignificant difference between male and female drivers, the use ofmobile devices by male drivers increased by 1.7% compared to lastyear. Observation of young drivers showed that 7.0% of all16-24-year-olds displayed use of mobile devices while driving. Thestudy also revealed an increase of 1.5% between 25-69-year-olddrivers.

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“Discouraging drivers from operating a vehicle while distractedis a challenge that law enforcement is faced with year-round,” saidCHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “By raising awareness througheducation and enforcement, we are working toward changing thedangerous behavior of using a cell phone while driving – and thepurpose is to save lives.”

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According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, 80% ofmotor vehicle accidents involve distracted drivers. Approximately3,000 people nationwide lose their lives in motor vehicle accidentsinvolving distracted drivers.

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The complete report can be viewed at "Observational study of cell phone and texting useamong California drivers 2015 and comparison to 2001 through 2014data."

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Trudy Knockless

Trudy Knockless is a reporter on ALM Media's Business of Law desk.  She has a background serving legal and insurance publications. Contact her at [email protected] or on LinkedIn at Trudy Knockless.