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A friend of mine joked recently that he had a vision of his demise – run over by a minivan driven by someone talking on a cell phone. He may be right. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society estimates that drivers distracted by cell phones cause 2,600 highway deaths and 330,000 injuries each year.

Since everyone knows they shouldn’t talk on a cell phone while driving, it remains a mystery why so many people do it. Science has now confirmed the danger. Recent studies have shown that a driver talking even on a hands-free cell phone, has diminished awareness of what is going on around his car. The AAA, which has a foundation dedicated to studying and reducing traffic accidents, urges drivers to stay off their phones while driving. Cell phones can be great safety tools, as long as they are used while the car is still. In the end, it may take the law of torts to convince people not to talk on the phone and drive. Maybe a principle should evolve that phone-talking drivers are “negligent per se” if they hit someone while on the phone.

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