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Disadvantages of Cell Phones (Part 5) – Driving Safety

This article is the fifth part in a series of articles titled ‘7 disadvantages of cell phones’. The first four parts:


Cell Phone Disadvantage #5 – Driving Safety

Much of the information presented in the previous articles is being debated and not acted upon by the industry or by governments; however the increased risk that cell phones pose to driving is clear-cut and widely acknowledged.

A simple Google search will show hundreds of studies on the subject of cell phone use and driving. All the studies I have seen agree that cell phone use while driving increases the risk of an accident. This increased risk is due to the inability to fully focus on driving while, and shortly after, talking on a cell phone.

In a study titled ‘Epidemiological evidence on health risks of cellular telephones’, Dr Rothman states:

…the risk of a collision was about four times greater when the driver was using the telephone or soon after a call. Use of the telephone in “hands-free’ mode was no less risky than holding the telephone to the ear with one hand while talking.[1]

A Canadian study performed by the University of Calgary states:

…conversation on cell phones, both hand-held and handsfree, was found to influence driving performance. Epidemiological findings consistently showed an increase in crashes associated with use of cell phones.[2]

One could argue that talking to a passenger poses the same risk as talking on a cell phone, but this is not the case. A likely explanation is that a passenger takes the traffic situation into account, something impossible for someone on the other side of a cell phone conversation.

Another study titled ‘Fatal distraction? A comparison of the cell-phone driver and the drunk driver’ compared the performance of cell-phone drivers to drivers who were legally intoxicated. This study concludes:

…when controlling for driving difficulty and time on task, cell-phone drivers may actually exhibit greater impairments (i.e., more accidents and less responsive driving behavior) than legally intoxicated drivers. These data also call into question driving regulations that prohibit hand-held cell-phones and permit hands-free cell-phones, because no significant differences were found in the impairments to driving caused by these two modes of cellular communication.[3]

In fact, many governments have banned the use of a cell phone while driving due to its safety risks. An up-to-date list with countries and US states that have banned cell phone use while driving can be found here.

Another interesting development is the changing legal implications for causing an accident when using a cell phone. The following is an excerpt from a  online New Jersey newspaper:

A motorist using a hand-held cell phone who causes a fatal accident could be charged with vehicular homicide if one state lawmaker gets her way. …Causing the death of another by driving a motor vehicle “recklessly” is the legal standard for filing a vehicular homicide charge in New Jersey. It is punishable by five to 10 years in prison and/or a $150,000 fine, according to Karrow’s bill.[4]

car_ph_thumb1If the increased risk of an accident is not enough of an incentive to stop you from using a cell phone when driving, or if your employer does not leave you a choice, then consider this: International Paper Co. is a company that agreed to pay $5.2 million to settle a personal injury suit related, at least in part, to one of its employees’ use of a cell phone while driving.[5]

In conclusion, the increased risk that cell phones pose to driving is clear-cut and widely acknowledged.

You owe it to yourself, your family, your passengers and your fellow road users to be a safe driver. Being a safe driver means not using a cell phone while driving.

Coming soon: Cell Phone Disadvantage #6 – Increased Stress Level

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  1. ^ Rothman, Kenneth J. “Epidemiological Evidence on Health Risks of Cellular Telephones.” The Lancet 356 (2000):1837-1840.
  2. ^ Caird, Jeffrey K., Charles T. Scialfa, Geoffrey Ho, and Alison Smiley. “Effects of Cellular Telephones on Driving Behaviour and Crash Risk: Results of Meta-Analysis.” (2004). <>.
  3. ^ Strayer, David L., Frank A. Drews, and Dennis J. Crouch. “Fatal Distraction? a Comparison of the Cell-Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver.” <>.
  4. ^ Jennings, Rob. “Vehicular Homicide Sought for Crashes Caused by Cell Phones.” Asbury Park Press 5 Mar. 2006. <>.
  5. ^ Conley, Janet L. “Cell Phone Use in Car Leads to $5.2M Payout.” Daily Report 13 Feb. 2008. <>.

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