DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE

Cellular Phones Do Bang Up Job In Autos!

TORONTO-Cellular phone use is becoming widespread in today's society. A major advantage of cellular phone systems is the increased efficiency they can add to the activities of our daily lives.

The use of cellular phones while operating a motor vehicle can present obvious challenges to a driver's dexterity as well as attentiveness. Any impairment of the mental and physical abilities of a driver of a motor vehicle could have serious health consequences.

Researchers recently published their study of 699 drivers who had cellular phones in vehicles involved in motor vehicle collisions resulting in substantial property damage in the New England Journal of Medicine (1997;336:453-8).

Donald A. Redelmeier, M.D. and colleagues analyzed the detailed billing records of users of cellular telephones on the day of the users' collisions. They found that the risk of a collision when a cellular telephone was in use was four times higher than the risk when the phone was not being used.

Further, the researchers noted no safety advantage to hands-free as compared with hand-held telephones.

The also found that thirty-nine percent of the drivers called emergency services using their cellular phones after the collisions. This suggested that the cellular phones may have been an advantage in the emergency setting after the collisions.

The authors noted that motor vehicles are a leading cause of death in North America and the most frequent cause of death of children and young adults. They added that during an average year, 1 in 50 persons will be involved in a motor vehicle accident. They also point out that driver error contributes to over 90% of collisions.

Driving a motor vehicle is a serious responsibility. The association between cellular telephone calls and motor vehicle collisions pointed out by this study will lead to further analysis of the risks of phone usage while driving. Future research will study the causes and effects of these issues more closely and specific guidelines for phone calling while in automobiles may be forthcoming.

In the meantime, editors of MedicineNet recommend that drivers remain alert and attentive at all times when operating motor vehicles.


Last Editorial Review: 12/31/1997