Using a phone while driving quadruples your risk of a crash, according to new research.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, investigated 699 drivers who had mobile telephones and who were involved in motor vehicle collisions resulting in substantial property damage but no personal injury.
Each person’s mobile telephone calls on the day of the collision and during the previous week were analyzed through the use of detailed billing records.
The risk of a collision when using a cellular telephone was four times higher than the risk when a cellular telephone was not being used. The relative risk was similar for drivers who differed in personal characteristics such as age and driving experience.
The researchers, Donald A Redelmeier, sonf Robert J Tibshirani of the University of Toronto, said that such risk was similar to the hazard of driving with a blood alcohol at the legal limit.
Calls close to the time of the collision were particularly hazardous (relative risk, 4.8 for calls placed within 5 minutes of the collision, as compared with 1.3 for calls placed more than 15 minutes before the collision).
Hands free phones offered no safety advantage over hand-held units, suggesting that the crashes are the result of inattention rather than limitations of driver dexterity.
Although the findings were serious, the researchers warned that the risks could even be higher as they only studied drivers who consented to participate.
And the study did not include serious injury of fatal collisions.