The health hazards of phoning while driving

June 16, 2010 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

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We all know we are not supposed to be doing it – handheld phoning and driving at the same time. Yet we do it all the time. On the Swiss highway, there is big sign from the police: “If you keep on phoning, we’ll have to get to know you better.” Yet, people are getting caught all the time. There are many reasons why we shouldn’t phone and drive. You might think you know it all but let’s have a look again.

Talking hinders driving

We are aware that driving takes a lot of concentration. One split second of inattentiveness and distraction can be fatal. There are many things that can distract us during a drive – the radio, the kids at the backseat, the landscape, even the navigation system. However, the phone is the worst of them all. A large number of traffic accidents are attributed to phone use. Studies have shown that phoning while driving is just as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol. Dr. Amy Ship of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston:

“Although there are many possible distractions for drivers, more than 275 million Americans own cell phones, and 81 per cent of them talk on those phones while driving.”

Driving hinders talking

It is not only your driving that is affected by the phoning-driving combination. Your communication skills are affected as well. A recent report in Family Science Review shows that relationships to those near and dear can suffer through distracted phone calls while driving. Such phone calls are characterized by abruptness, delayed responses, and sometimes even missing important details of the conversation. Thus, half-heard phone calls lead to a lot of misunderstanding that can affect relationships.

I used to answer my phone and yell to my husband “I can’t talk, I’m driving”, and disconnect. However, I realized this is all very unnecessary, not to mention stupid. Nowadays, I simply let the phone ring in my handbag or even put it to mute. The message: talking hinders driving but driving hinders talking, too.

It’s not only about the talking

Now, smart phones are not only for talking. It’s for texting, surfing, emailing, tweeting, and what else. These activities are even more distracting than simply talking. You need your hands as well as your eyes to do these.


Use hands-free devices

Health authorities recommend the use of hands-free devices while driving. This may reduce but not completely get rid of distraction while driving. Definitely the distraction of talking can be improved by hands-free devices. But not the texting, etc.


In many countries, phoning while driving is a traffic violation that can lead to hefty fines. In North America, all Canadian provinces except New Brunswick and Alberta as well as 41 American states have legislations in place. But these laws, like most traffic legislations, are not taken seriously.

Doctors should warn their patients.

People sometimes could take advice more easily from their doctors than from the law enforcers or their loved ones. If a doctor can talk to a patient about the hazards of smoking and alcohol, he or she can also talk about the hazards of phoning while driving. Primary care clinicians should therefore discuss this issue with their patients. This is according to a commentary by Dr. Ship in the recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that spending three minutes discussing the risk of tobacco use with a patient increases the likelihood of that patient quitting smoking. The same might be true for cell phone use.”

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One Response to “The health hazards of phoning while driving”
  1. HART (1-800-HART) says:

    We’ve had legislation here in Manitoba for a while now, but our Cell Phone ban while driving starts officially July 1, 2010 when they will be ticketing people.

    Top ten excuses why husbands get tickets during cell phone ban in cars

    … “it was my wife and don’t dare ignore here”

    My brother has a blue tooth and I tried it and hate it! But, I’ll either have to live with it or stop texting while I’m driving ~ just kidding ~ .. although I have been known to answer my phone and talking while I drive. Basically, living in a condo .. I yearn to go into my car and crank my stereo and often can’t hear my cell phone ring anyway.

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