These days it is common to see folks talking on their cell phones while driving. Interestingly, several studies at the University of Utah have shown that drivers are more impaired talking on a cell phone than drunk! The testing involved drivers who used hand-held or hands-free cell phones or were drunk (.08 blood alcohol). By all measures, cell phone users were as or more impaired than the drunk drivers.
Additionally, cell phone users drove more slowly and took longer to get back to speed after decelerating, thus slowing the flow of all traffic. A prospective study at Virginia Tech followed one hundred drivers for a year and “concluded that talking on cell phones caused far more crashes, near-crashes and other incidents than other distractions…”. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, found that the risk of distraction is as high for drivers who use hands-free cell phones, as for drivers who use hand-held devices. Finally a study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded, based on accident statistics, that the risk of having an accident quadruples due to cell phone use. Laws already exist banning drunk driving. One could reasonably conclude that if we are serious about reducing the risk of injury and death due to traffic accidents, we should ban the use of cell phones while driving, be they hands free or not.