Attention has recently focused on an analysis and studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which has confirmed the seriousness of the role of cell phone use in motor vehicle traffic injuries and deaths. An estimated 9% of all persons who drive during the day do so while dialing or talking on a cell phone or sending or receiving text messages. An analysis of cell phone records indicates that cellphone use among all drivers increases four-fold the risk of accidents. The problem and risks are particularly pronounced with younger drivers. The authors performed studies involving 42 newly licensed drivers, utilizing data-acquisition systems and instruments installed in their personal vehicles. Over the course of the 18-month study, data was collected, including video footage. The data showed that performance of secondary tasks, including dialing or reaching for a cell phone, was associated with a significantly increased risk of crash or near-crash among novice drivers. The secondary tasks associated with the risks of a crash or near-crash required the driver to look away from the road ahead. The authors concluded that their findings of these associations among young drivers support policies that would limit the performance of these tasks through graduated licensing requirements or other policy initiatives.
By Michael L. Roberts