Half of American drivers on cellphones when they hit people -

Nearly half of Americans surveyed were hit by a car or managed to marginally escape being hit by drivers who were talking on their mobile phones, according to a new report released today.

The poll of 1,004 people taken by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company showed that 38 percent of American drivers got into car accidents or managed to just avoid them due to other drivers being distracted while on their mobile phones.

Actual calls were not the only problem, as the growth in smartphones has meant that more and more people are using their phones for applications, including services like Google Maps, while driving, creating significant hazards for other road users. Social notworking, or should that be notdriving, was also a big factor cited in the risky driving.

“Many of the 500 million Facebook users have an app on their phone so they can read and post messages when they’re away from their computer,” said Bill Windsor, vice president for Consumer Safety at Nationwide. “Social networking has become an obsession for many people, but it’s critical that people not try to do it while driving. No post or tweet is so important it’s worth losing your life over.”

Phones are not the only distraction either. 40 percent of drivers are distracted by built-in technology, such as a radio, CD player, or DVD player. In fact, 17 percent watch something on a display rather than watching the far more exciting car crash happening outside. 

14 percent search for music to drown out the screams, 13 percent use GPS to find the best traffic black spot to take an urgent call, 13 percent use phone calls to call ambulances, but only 2 percent google emergency CPR on the roadside.

Windsor said that Americans are easily distracted by shiny things: “Americans can’t seem to resist the temptation of using new technology while they’re driving. Whether it is the latest smart phone or new in-car technology, many drivers seem more concerned about these toys than focusing on the road.”

TechEye did a survey of one scizophrenic and found that 50 percent of people used their mobile phone while driving, despite the dangers and legal penalties.

“The number of Americans who multi-task by using a mobile application while driving becomes more troubling as the market for feature phones and applications steadily grows,” Windsor added. “This summer alone, a multitude of new generation cell phones – including the new iPhone – will hit the market offering more features to multi-task on the go.”

Of course, with the iPhone 4's antennas not working properly Apple customers may not be able to chat and crash at the same time any more.