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Cell Phones:

More dangerous than driving drunk 

Texting more dangerous than drunk driving

A test by Car and Driver magazine showed that texting is more dangerous than driving drunk.  A Virginia Tech study showed that texting is 17 times more dangerous than just talking on the phone.  A Harris poll showed that 66% of respondents admitted to texting while driving, though 89% think the practice should be banned.  L.A. Times, 2010

Cell phone use as dangerous as driving drunk

University of Utah researchers tested subjects' braking ability while talking on a cellphone or driving drunk.  The cellphone drivers did worse.  Three of them even crashed into the pace car, while none of the drunks did.  CNET, July 2006

Cellphone-driving is just as dangerous as drunk-driving, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Reuters, 1997

Hands-free phones just as dangerous as hand-held...or worse

New Jersey statistics show that talking on a hands-free cell phone while driving can be just as dangerous as talking on a hand-held phone.  A motorist is also almost as likely to be injured or killed when involved in a crash while using a hands-free cell phone, vs. no phone.  The problem with handheld phones isn't that they tie up your hands, it's that they tie up your mind.  That's why switching to a headset doesn't make it any safer.   Press of Atlantic City, May 2010

The government has known that hands-free phones as just as dangerous as hand-held since 2003, but kept the information secret.  A consumer group is now suing the government for not sharing this information with the public.  Public Citizen, July 2009

"Even hands-free phones appear to contribute to unsafe driving. A 2005 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that drivers using cell phones -- even hands-free -- were four times as likely to have an accident involving an injury." ABC News, March 2009

Hands-free cell phones, in fact, are involved in more accidents (14 percent) than handheld cell phones (4 percent), according to a study published in the Journal of American College Health.  Indiana University, 2006

Researchers at the University of Illinois tested the hands-free mobile use and found it to be just as dangerous as driving with a cell phone in your hand.  ABC News, Aug. 2005

Report: Using Car Phones Is as Dangerous as Driving Drunk

February 13, 1997
©Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved ©FOX News Network 1997. All rights reserved.

BOSTON -- The risk of having a traffic accident while using a cellular phone is the same as that while driving drunk, according to a study appearing in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. University of Toronto researchers found cell phone users four to five times more likely to get into traffic accidents than those who do not use them. "Telephones that allowed the hands to be free did not appear to be safer than hand-held telephones," they said. "This may indicate that the main factor in most motor vehicle collisions is a driver's limitations in attention rather than dexterity." An editorial by Malcolm Maclure of the Harvard School of Public Health and Murray Mittleman of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston said the research was the first "direct evidence that the use of cellular telephones in cars contributes to roadway collisions."

The Toronto study by Dr. Donald Redelmeier and Robert Tibshirani said the risk "is similar to the hazard associated with driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit."

A definitive study with people randomly assigned cellular phones so their accident rates could be checked was unlikely because it would be difficult and possibly unethical. Representatives of the cellular phone industry were quick to cite what they said were the study's shortcomings. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, a trade group, said in a statement that the study dealt with an association between accidents and the phones. The researchers did not directly assess whether the phones caused accidents. The association also said cell phone use was way up and traffic injuries were down, showing users drive safely.

Nonetheless, the findings were likely to reverberate through the cell phone and insurance industries, and among drivers and government regulators as well. About 35 million Americans have cell phones. Brazil, Israel and Australia have banned the use of cellular telephones while driving and the new finding may spark similar moves, even though the researchers stressed that there are benefits to the phones, such as the ability of drivers to make emergency calls quickly.

Driver error was responsible for more than 90 percent of motor vehicle collisions, which were the top cause of death among children and young adults, the researchers said.

Redelmeier and Tibshirani used 13 months of accident data and phone billing records of 699 volunteers to pinpoint the time of the accident and determine when a cell phone customer was last using the phone. They also made some statistical adjustments to account for the intermittence of driving.


Among their findings:

-- The risk of an accident was nearly five times higher than normal when a person was on the telephone one minute or five minutes before the accident. The typical call in the study lasted nearly 2 1/2 minutes.

-- The collision rate was four times higher than expected when the call was made less than 15 minutes before the accident.

-- Only after the driver had been off the phone for more than 15 minutes did the risk seem to dissipate.

-- Younger and older drivers with a cell phone faced essentially the same risk.

-- "Subjects with many years of experience in using a cellular telephone still had a significant increase in risk," but the highest risk was among people who had not graduated from high school.

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