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America's On the Phone

A Look at Cell Phones While Driving

Americans say their cell phones aid them during emergencies and fill in their free time.

But many also report driving unsafely while on their cells and they say they don't like the new intrusions and public annoyances cell phones bring to their lives — not to mention their monthly bills.

The cell phone has become an integral and, for some, essential communications tool that has helped owners gain help in emergencies. Fully 74 percent of the Americans who own mobile phones say they have used their hand-held device in an emergency and gained valuable help.

"More than a quarter of cell phone owners (28%) admit they sometimes do not drive as safely as they should while they use their mobile devices."

Another striking impact of mobile technology is that Americans are using their cell phones to shift they way they spend their time. Some 41 percent of cell phone owners say they fill in free time when they are traveling or waiting for someone by making phone calls. And 44 percent say they wait to make most of their cell calls for the hours when they do not count against their "anytime" minutes in their basic calling plan.

At the same time, there are new challenges associated with cell phone use. More than a quarter of cell phone owners (28 percent) admit they sometimes do not drive as safely as they should while they use their mobile devices. Among cell phone users, men (32 percent) are more likely than women (25 percent) to admit they sometimes don't drive as safely as they should.

Furthermore, 82 percent of all Americans and 86 percent of cell users report being irritated at least occasionally by loud and annoying cell users who conduct their calls in public places. Indeed, nearly one in ten cell phone owners (8 percent) admit they themselves have drawn criticism or irritated stares from others when they are using their cell phones in public.

When it comes to the features Americans would like to add to their cell phones, the desire for maps tops the charts by a clear margin. Fully 47 percent of cell owners say they would like this feature and 38 percent say they would like to have instant messages from select friends sent to their cells. Some 24 percent of cell owners say they would like to use their phones to conduct searches for services such as movie listings, weather reports, and stock quotes. And a similar 24 percent of cell owners would like to add email to their mobile-phone functionality.

These findings emerge in a national survey of cell phone owners by the Pew Research Center's Pew Internet & American Life Project, the Associated Press and AOL. The findings provide a detailed picture of the role of the cell phone in modern life, including how the use of cell phones has helped people become more spontaneous and prolific in their communication patterns. Half the survey was conducted among cell phone owners on their cell phones — one of the largest such samples ever conducted.

It is likely that many of the behaviors reported here will intensify in coming years as more people become attached to and reliant on their mobile phones. Indeed, 23 percent of those who currently have landline phones say they are very likely or somewhat likely to convert to being only cell phone users.

At times, mobile phones are used abet some white lies: 22 percent of cell owners say they are not always truthful about exactly where they are when they are on the phone. Younger users are much more likely to say they are not always honest about where they are: 39 percent of cell users ages 18-29 say that.

(Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project)