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How dangerous is texting or talking on a cellphone?

Cellphones have long been targets of blame for serious accidents and injury. It has even been reported that cellphone use is more dangerous than drinking and driving. But, how much evidence is there to support the argument that cellphone use is a hazard?

Texting and driving is now illegal in New Haven and throughout Connecticut and can result in serious penalties and fines for those in violation. Reasoning for these laws is simple: the use of cellphones while driving is dangerous and can lead to serious accidents and injuries. However, recent evidence suggests that the direct link between cellphone use and accidents is unclear.

The dangers of cellphone use while driving is nearly considered common knowledge, but two decades of research in the U.S. and abroad have not been able to produce clear or conclusive data on how dangerous cellphones actually are. For one, phone records demonstrating use are difficult to obtain. Secondly, auto accidents overall have decreased even with the rise of cellphone use.

Distractions will always cause hazards on the road: eating, drinking coffee, dealing with children, putting on makeup, and other activities that can divert a driver's attention. But, are cellphones any more dangerous than these other driver distractions?

Some researchers argued that while most people are convinced that using cellphones while driving is dangerous, much of this new data contradicts these common beliefs. Researchers contend that one reason is because drivers know that cellphones are dangerous and will driver more carefully. They also believe that another set of more "risk-loving" drivers would probably be involved in other distracting activities, like playing with the radio, even if they were not using a cellphone.

Despite the conflicting evidence reports, researchers agreed that driving while using a cellphone is dangerous, despite not being able to prove the rate of accidents. Drivers who are involved in a serious accident can still use cellphone use as evidence of negligence.

Chicago Tribune, "Cellphone and driving: As dangerous as we think?" Matthew Walberg, March 26, 2012.

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