Cell Phones and Traffic Fatalities

Those who die in traffic accidents are just as dead whether killed by drug use, fatigue,  falling asleep at the wheel, alcohol intoxication, or inattention caused by cell phone use while driving.
A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that drivers who used mobile phones while driving were four times more likely to crash than those not, a rate equal to that for drunken driving at the .10 level, which is 20% higher than the current .08 in all U.S. states.

At least 25 countries restrict or prohibit cell and other wireless technology: Israel, Japan, Portugal and Singapore all prohibit mobile phone use while driving. Australia, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, the Philippines, Romania, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Drivers in the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom may use cell phones but can be fined if they are involved in crashes while using such a phone.

Similar life-saving legislation has been proposed in 40 states in the US, but only New York has passed such legislation. A major obstacle has been the cellular phone industry, which strongly opposes any restrictions on cell phone use.

So long as the cellular phone industry strongly opposes the needed legislation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) remains indifferent or opposed, the prospects for reducing this important cause of needless injuries and deaths are not bright.


  • Sundeem, M. Cell Phones and Highway Safety: 2002 State Legislatures Update. Denver, CO: National Council of State Legislatures;
  • Connelly, J. Cellular phones can distract you to death. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 16, 2003.

Filed Under: Drinking and Driving