FRIDAY, April 19, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly two-thirds of adults use a cell phone when they're driving with children in the car, and about one-third text, according to a new California survey.
The dangers of such behavior are well-documented. In 2011, about 3,300 deaths and 400,000 injuries in the United States occurred because of distracted driving, according to experts in the driving safety program at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine.
Their online survey of 715 drivers, aged 30 to 64, in San Diego County revealed that many people either are unaware of the dangers of distracted driving or choose to ignore them.
"Studies have shown that phoning and driving increases the risk of crashes four-fold, with hands-free and handheld devices equally dangerous; this is the same as driving with a blood alcohol content at the legal limit of .08. Texting increases this risk eight to 16 times," Dr. Linda Hill, a clinical professor in the department of family and preventive medicine at UCSD School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
"[These findings] highlight the dangerous behavior of adults driving distracted, especially with children in the car, exposing both themselves and their children to increased risk for a crash," Hill said.
Of the more than 500 people in the survey who said they drive an average of one to two hours a day, 30 percent said they use cell phones for talking, texting and other applications sometimes or often. Fifty-three percent said they rarely do so, and 17 percent said they never do.
Fifty-six percent of respondents reported driving with a handheld phone and 92 percent with a hands-free phone.
Among the respondents with children younger than age 11 in the car, 65 percent drive with a cell phone and 36 percent text. Of those with children aged 12 to 17 in the car, 63 percent drive with a cell phone and 31 percent text. People with children younger than age 11 in the car were significantly more likely to text and to talk on a handheld phone, according to the survey.
The survey also found that 31 percent of respondents said they feel obligated to take a work-related call while driving.
"Employers should be aware that encouraging workers to initiate and receive calls while driving on the job is putting their employees at risk and exposing their companies to potential liability," Hill said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about distracted driving.