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New Survey Shows Drivers Have Had 'Close Calls' With Cell Phone Users

4 May 2000

Farmers Insurance Study: Two in Five Have Had Near Accidents with Drivers Using Cell Phones

    LOS ANGELES - According to a new survey by Farmers Insurance Group, 87% 
of adults believe that using a cell phone while driving impairs a person's 
ability to drive.

    And while only two percent of drivers said they had been in an accident in
which one of the drivers was using a cell phone, more than 40 percent reported
to have had close calls or near misses with a driver who was on the phone.

    "As more people telecommute, cell phones and other communication devices
are becoming a necessity to stay connected in today's busy world," said
Kenneth Adams, public relations manager for Farmers Insurance Group. "Travelling 
no longer restricts people from using a phone, whether it's for business or 
personal reasons."

    "While Farmers Insurance promotes the idea of drivers carrying a cell
phone in their car in case of emergencies, we don't recommend people use a
phone while they are driving," Adams said.

    Farmers Insurance offers the following safety tips for drivers who use
cell phones:

    *  If possible, use a hands-free device, such as an earpiece or cradle.
    *  Do not take notes or look up numbers while driving.
    *  Place calls when you are not moving or before pulling into traffic.
    *  Keep conversations short and sweet.  Don't use the phone for social
visiting while you drive.
    *  Suspend the call in heavy traffic, hazardous weather conditions or
stressful situations.  You can explain later, because you will still be alive.

    Brian O'Neill, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,
deals with the problem of driver safety on a daily basis.

    "The evidence is very clear that using a cell phone while driving
increases the risk of crashes because it distracts from the driving task,"
O'Neill said.

    "Unfortunately," he added, "even though many cell phone users understand
these risks, they continue to use their phones while driving.  Like many other
highway safety problems we deal with, these people think that it is the other
cell phone users who are the hazards, not themselves."

    "If you need to use your phone while you are in your vehicle, we ask that
you pull off the road to use it," Adams said.  "You still have the convenience
of making calls from your vehicle.  You're just not endangering yourself or
other motorists by using the phone in traffic."

    Farmers is the nation's third-largest home and auto insurer.
Headquartered in Los Angeles and doing business in 41 states, Farmers provides
home, auto, business and life insurance to more than 8 million households
through 15,000 agents and district managers.