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Survey: Half-million drivers on phone at any given time

By Julie Vallese
CNN Consumer Editor

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An estimated 3 percent of American drivers are talking on handheld cell phones at any given time, according to the first-of-its-kind survey conducted by the federal government.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Monday that about a half-million drivers are holding a phone to their ears at any given time throughout the week.

The survey found that rates of use can double during times outside rush hour. The survey covered drivers of all types of passenger vehicles, including cars, vans, sport-utility vehicles and pickups.

While the report looked at cell phone use across the country, it did not try to assess how cell phones contribute to car crashes. However, other NHTSA data suggests cell phones contribute to approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of all crashes.

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The study is based on data collected by researchers who observed more than 12,000 vehicles between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day of the week during October and November 2000. The observations were made at 640 intersections nationwide.

Data collected in the survey found:

-- Drivers of vans and SUVs used their cell phones the most.

-- Use by drivers was highest during times outside rush hour.

-- Females use their cell phones more then men -- in the case of SUV drivers it was almost twice as high.

-- Senior citizens use cell phones less than any other age group.

-- Pickup truck drivers use cell phones the less than drivers of other vehicles.

-- Cell phones are used more during the week than on weekends.

• National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
• Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association

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