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Cell Phones Put Traffic on Hold
Date:1/4/2008

Chatting motorists slower, less efficient than the phone-free, study finds

FRIDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have verified what many American drivers already knew: Drivers who talk on a cell phone clog traffic.

These highway conversationalists drive slower on the freeway, pass slower vehicles less often and take longer to complete their trip compared to the cell phone-free, reports a new study.

A fatal accident can cost up to $5 million in medical, property and loss-of-income costs, but these types of events occur much less often than everyday traffic delays, the researchers noted.

Traffic delays linked to cell phone use are estimated to cost about $13 per hour -- based on a measure of the value of a typical American traveler's time. Multiply $13 by the millions of drivers every day who talk, argue, yell and conduct meetings on the phone, and the figures add up, the researchers said.

Highway officials know that all too well.

"Safety on the roads is our number one priority," said Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration, part of the Department of Transportation. "We cannot equivocally say that using a cell phone while driving is a distraction but we are doing everything we can to reduce distractions, which can include loud radios and kids in the back seat. When the driver is in charge of a vehicle, it is a serious operation."

The study was led by Joel Cooper, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Utah, who will be presenting the findings Jan. 16 at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

According to background information in the study, more than 240 million people now use wireless services in the United States, and an estimated 73 percent of them admit to using their phones while driving. One survey found that about 10 percent of drivers were using wireless phones at any daylight moment in 200
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