Shut up and drive, or die?

Matt Hines, News Writer

Just in case you need hard numbers to back up the obvious, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA) has published research that proves jabbering on a cell phone while you drive makes you more likely not only to annoy someone but also to kill someone.

Surprising only to the handful of drivers who haven't been physically menaced by someone too busy babbling to realize he's a potential road hazard, the report offers up some fairly gruesome stats. HCRA concluded that every year in the United States, wireless-wielding throttle jockeys account for as many as 2,600 deaths, 330,000 moderate to critical injuries, 240,000 minor injuries, and 1.5 million instances of property damage.

Now, here's the irony of it all. The HCRA report also concluded that the dollar value that consumers place on being able to blabber on their handsets while they cut you off nearly equals the related costs of cleaning up after them. According to report author and senior research scientist Joshua Cohen, Ph.D., the benefits of a ban on cell phone use while driving, compared with the amount of revenue and perceived "value" generated by callers, is nearly even.

HCRA admits that hard numbers on cell phone use by motorists is still relatively tough to gauge, and as a result, the range of uncertainty may be wide. However, when the estimates of fatalities range from 800 to 8,000, and the estimates of injuries range from 100,000 to 1 million, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say it may be time to

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hang up and focus on the road ahead.

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