Do more accidents happen when people drive while talking on their cell phones?

Yes. Basic common sense dictates that driving while mentally focused on a conversation slows down reaction time by as much as half a second.

But why take our word for it? Here’s what a major study on the topic found:

If you talk on a cell phone while driving, you’re four times more likely to get into an accident than if you weren’t using your phone.

After you hang up the phone, your chances of having an accident are pretty high for about fifteen or more minutes.

Although age, gender, and driving experience don’t seem to affect the odds, younger people tend to have a slightly higher risk of accidents while gabbing on their cell phones than older people. But this age-to-accident difference is consistent with non-cell-phone-using drivers as well.

Researchers also discovered that it doesn’t seem to matter if your hands are free or not—whether you’re using a handheld phone or a hands-free car phone, the risk is close to exactly the same.

If you use a cell phone, you have a greater chance of causing an accident while traveling at a higher speed than when traveling at a slower speed (in, for example, a parking lot).

Furthermore, investigative reporters for the Portland Oregonian found that cell phone towers interfere with emergency vehicle radio signals. Twenty-one of the twenty-eight states studied reported hundreds of incidences where emergency radio signals were cut off, intercepted, or otherwise disrupted by signals from cell phone company towers.

Hang up, America, and drive, —it’s okay to be out of reach every now and again.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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