If you’re on the road, stay off the phone!

Anyone who’s driven in a car with me has probably heard me rail against drivers on cell phones. Texting is even worse. And way too many drivers are dilly-dallying with their phones or other tasks instead of driving.

Drivers spend about 10 percent of their time using phones or doing tasks that take their eyes off the road, says a study in today’s New England Journal of Medicine. It’s not just that these folks are flaunting the law. They’re also endangering the lives of other people.

In the study, researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute used cameras and sensors to track test subjects’ behavior behind the wheel over a period of 12 to 18 months. Dialing a cell phone doubled the risk of a crash or near miss for experienced adult drivers. Reaching for the phone raised the odds about 37 percent.

For teen drivers, the risks of distracted driving were much higher. Texting raised the risk of a crash or near miss by a factor of about 4. Tasks like dialing and reaching for the phone increased the odds 7 or 8 times.

For your own good and for everyone else out there on the road, please make one more New Year’s resolution: If you’re on the road, stay off the phone!

Keeping this resolution is entirely doable. If the phone rings, let it ring. If you need to check something, pull over and stop. Keep your eyes and your attention on the road.

Happy New Year!

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