TUESDAY, July 12, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Drivers distracted by cell phone conversations quadruple their risk of a serious accident, according to new research out of Australia.
The University of Sydney study also found that hands-free mobile phones are no safer than handheld mobile phones while driving.
Researchers analyzed data on 456 drivers who owned or used mobile phones and had been in a traffic crash resulting in injuries requiring hospitalization.
As part of the study, they interviewed the drivers and used phone company records to assess their mobile phone use immediately before the crash and during trips occurring at roughly the same time of day 24 hours, three days, and seven days before the crash. This meant, in effect, that researchers could compare crash risks in the same driver at the same time of day, with the only difference being whether or not they were using their cell phone.
Reporting Tuesday in the online edition of the British Medical Journal, they found that cell phone use occurring in the 10 minutes prior to a crash was linked to a quadrupled risk of having an accident. The researchers also found similar results for the interval of up to five minutes before a crash.
This link between mobile phone use and increased crash risk held true irrespective of driver age, sex, or whether or not he or she was using a hands-free mobile phone, the researchers added in a prepared statement.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more about cell phones and driving.