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Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to get into
crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to a study
released Tuesday.
Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to a study released Tuesday.

And hands-free phones, the research shows, does nothing to reduce the risk that a driver will end up in the hospital.

The study, performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is reportedly the first time the group has examined evidence linking cell phone use to crash injuries.

“The main finding of a four-fold increase in injury crash risk was consistent across groups of drivers,” Anne McCatt, vice president for research and an author of the study, said in a statement. “Male and female drivers experienced about the same increase in risk from using a phone. So did drivers older and younger than 30 and drivers using hand-held and hands-free phones.”

Banning hand-held phones won’t necessarily enhance a driver’s safety, the study says. The injuries suffered by drivers using hand-held versus hands-free phones was the same.

McCatt, one of the study’s authors, said that may be attributed to hands-free cell phones that are not really hands-free, particularly when a driver needs to dial a phone number.

“This isn’t intuitive. You’d think using a hands-free phone would be less distracting, so it won’t necessarily increase crash risk as much as using a hand-held phone,” she said.

California Highway Patrol Officer Matt Ramirez said Tuesday he is not surprised by the results of the study, particularly the findings about hands-free devices.

“Sure, you’re not holding onto a phone, but you’re carrying on a conversation that could be emotional at some point,” he said. “People get distracted and it just makes it that much easier to take your eyes off the road for a second and get into a crash.”

More and more, Ramirez sees drivers in the area who will pull over to have a cell phone conversation, rather than talk while driving. He recommended that more drivers do the same.

“They’ve made the conscious decision to stop, and get off the road,” Ramirez said. “A lot of people are doing that now, but then we still have people on their cell phones – even on their hands-free – getting into crashes.”

The study looked at about 500 drivers in Perth, Australia, who were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries suffered in crashes from April 2002 to July 2004. It compared a driver’s cell phone use 10 minutes before getting in a crash with cell use by the same driver in the prior week to determine increased risk for injury.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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