Handset Use in Cars Kills 16,000

Sixteen thousand people died between 2001 and 2007 due to distracted driving involving the use of handsets for voice or text communications, according to a research study in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study by Fernando Wilson and Jim Stimpson of the University of North Texas Health Science Center concluded that "Distracted driving is a growing public safety hazard. Specifically, the dramatic rise in texting volume since 2005 appeared to be contributing to an alarming rise in distracted driving fatalities."

The debate about distracted driving has increased as quickly as the phenomenon itself. A recent Transportation Department report put "distracted driving" deaths at over 5,000 last year.

The trouble with such studies is it's often difficult to tell exactly what killed many of the drivers in question, which means that all conclusions must be estimates. But the connection seems clear: As cell phone ownership and texting has increased in recent years, so have deaths attributed to distracted driving.

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