Why are Americans more distracted than Europeans?

Nearly 70% of Americans ages 18- 64 admit to talking on their phones while driving in the past 30 days.  A full 30% admitted to sending text messages.

Distracted driving is a lot more common in the U.S. than in Europe, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, which compared drivers in 7 European countries and the U.S., found that for many Americans, using a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle has become a matter of habit –regardless of the danger.

In Britain, where there are strict laws against use, only 21% admitted talking on phone while driving.

One explanation for the disparity is that many European countries have adopted nation-wide laws on cellphone use while driving. In the U.S., laws vary by state and even by city. Although many states, including Oregon and Washington, have outlawed the use of mobile communications devices for drivers, laws are by no means uniform. Police enforcement varies widely, as does the fine or penalty.

There is a surprising cultural laxity about this issue. The huge majority of health and safety experts agree that talking on a cellphone, texting, and webbing while driving are all dangerous. Statistics show that our mobile devices are universally distracting:  even using a hands-free device can be a major distraction.

The reality is that texting while driving a car is at least six times as dangerous as driving drunk.

A few decades ago, drunken driving penalties began to increase dramatically, mostly thanks to social pressure from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and others. At the time, at least 60% of car crashes – and most fatal accidents – involved drugs or alcohol. Now that number is closer to 30%:  still too many injuries and deaths, but a huge shift in a short time.

How long before we see the same attitude shift about distracted driving?