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I’m not a big cell phone gabber, but I do answer the phone while I'm driving. My husband will have none of it. His first question when he calls is, “Are you driving?” and if my answer is yes, he says good-bye and hangs up. Hard core? Most would say yes.
But apparently my husband isn’t going to be the only one asking me if I talk (or text) while driving. At the next well visit, I expect my pediatrician to bring it up--and then give me a well-deserved lecture about how dangerous it is. And you should expect it too.
This is because New England Journal of Medicine just published an editorial calling on doctors to talk to their patients about the risks of being distracted while driving (and that includes reaching back to hand your toddler a sippy cup, taking a peek back at your child and reaching to break up sibling fights).
Data suggests that each year, at least 1.6 million car crashes--28% of total collisions--are caused by drivers talking on cell phones or texting. In other words, talking on a cell phone is as dangerous as drinking while driving (and think how many of us were shocked and appalled when we heard the Long Island woman who drove the wrong way on a highway had been drunk behind the wheel with her kids in the car).
More sobering facts: Talking on a hands-free set is not a safeguard, says the study's author, Amy Ship, M.D, of Harvard Medical School. Apparently, the neurons in our brains are diverted differently when we're on the phone than they are when we're talking to a friend sitting next to us in the car, so the increased risk of an accident is the same, no matter the device we use. And texting is even worse, raising your risk of an accident by 23 percent, according to another study.
But is this really a medical problem that doctors should be addressing? Dr. Ship says she asks her patients, “How would you feel if the surgeon removing your appendix talked on the phone—hands-free, of course—while operating?” Most of us think driving is a pretty easy skill, unlike surgery, and perhaps that’s why we think we can do it while distracted. But it, too, can be a matter of life and death.
Do you think that doctors should lecture us on ditching our cell phones while driving? Chime in below!