Solving the problem is complex, Wilson noted. He has no ready answers, but he suggested that "we need technologies that inhibit cell phone use while driving" and that more effective law enforcement of cell phone bans would also help.
Frank Drews, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Utah, said that "this is a timely study that adds another piece to the literature on driver distraction."
Drews added: "With work like this, it will be a little bit harder to deny that cell phone use while driving has a significant negative impact on public safety. I think at this point, once again, the question comes to mind, how much more scientific evidence will politicians need to put laws in place that protect the public from the dangers associated with cell phone use while driving?"
Jennifer Smith, a board member of FocusDriven, which advocates against cell phone use while driving, put it more bluntly.
The more than 5,000 traffic deaths each year from cell phone use is "equivalent to a major airliner going down every week in this country," she said. "If that was happening, they would ground all flights until they figured out what the problem was and they solved it. But because everyone likes their cell phones, we have to debate this."
Smith noted that all cell phone use when driving -- including hands-free cell phone use -- is dangerous. "All we need to be doing in our cars is driving. No phone call is that important that you can't wait until you stop," she said.
For more on distracted driving, visit the U.S. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
SOURCES: Fernando Wilson, Ph.D., assistant professor, School of Public Health, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth; Frank Drews, Ph.D., associate professor, psychology, University of Utah,
All rights reserved