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
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
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