"Once we have added the use of a cell phone while driving to the list of other unacceptable behaviors, such as driving drunk, driving without a seatbelt and having kids on our laps, we will look back and wonder how we could have been so reckless," he said.
"I think people have a vague sense they are doing something risky when they use a cell phone while driving," Melmed added, "but they do it anyway because of the perceived convenience and the lack of accountability."
Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University, agreed that bans on using cell phones while driving were needed, but for him --as with most people -- it will be tough to change a habit that has become so ingrained.
"As a public health practitioner, I routinely invoke the notion that epidemiology should trump ideology when it comes to public health policy," Katz said. "But I confess a ban on all use of cell phones while driving is a tough one for me. I can't imagine that long drive to give a talk without several calls scheduled along the way on my hands-free system."
But the evidence seems rather strong that such a ban would help reduce crashes, and injuries, Katz added.
"Having been distracted from the road myself by calls or e-mail messages on more than one occasion, I find the concept compelling," he said.
For more information on safe driving, visit the National Safety Council .
SOURCES: Janet Froetscher, president and chief executive officer, National Safety Council, Itasca, Ill.; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; Gavin Melmed, M.D., Baylor University Medical Center, Waco, Texas
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