Karen Kaplan asks us to consider the human costs of people using cellphones while driving:

* Experts at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis in Boston have calculated that drivers using cellphones cause 333,000 injuries (including 12,000 that were serious) and 2,600 deaths per year.

* Researchers from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth have estimated that texting accounted for more than 16,000 crash-related deaths between 2001 and 2007.

* Investigators at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg have concluded that, compared with driving with a cellphone put away, texting while driving increases the risk of a “safety-critical event” by a factor of 23 and dialing while driving increases the risk by a factor of six.


Kaplan, citing an opinion piece that appeared in JAMA last week, says that technology is ready to solve the problem:

“Simply stated, handheld portable devices must be rendered unoperable whenever the automobile is in motion or when the transmission shaft lever is in forward or reverse gear,” they wrote in a Viewpoint essay in Wednesday’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Assn. “Automobile and cell phone equipment manufacturers have the engineering capabilities to implement these safeguards and they should be required to do so.”


Of course, that would require Congress to acknowledge this public safety threat and make legislation happen.  Good luck with that.