But even those states that require hands-free devices for cell phones while driving or ban texting while driving don't enforce their laws consistently, Froetscher noted.
According to Froetscher, the data clearly shows that cell phones and other devices cause many accidents because drivers pay more attention to their conversation or text message than where they are on the road.
She cited a study from the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis that found cell phone use while driving accounts for about 6 percent of crashes each year nationwide. That's 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths, she said.
Another Harvard study put the cost of cell phone-related crashes at about $43 billion a year.
A 1997 study in the New England Journal of Medicine and a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2005 found drivers who use cell phones while driving were four times more likely to be in a crash.
Hands-free devices may also cause a hazard, Froetscher added. A study by researchers at the University of Utah found no difference in driver concentration between using hand-held or hands-free devices. In fact, talking to a passenger while driving is much safer than talking on a cell phone, the Utah researchers noted.
In addition, a Virginia Tech study found that 80 percent of crashes result from driver inattention.
More than 100 million people use cell phones while driving, the University of Utah researchers estimated. A poll conducted by the Nationwide Insurance Company found that that 81 percent of those surveyed admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving.
"It will take legislation, enforcement, and lots of education to eventually change this," said Dr. Gavin Melmed, an internist at Baylor University Medical Center in Waco, Tex., who has researched and written
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