Two researchers from West Virginia University have put forward a radical proposal for reducing the death toll from such accidents: Equip cars with devices that would disable cellphones while the car is in motion.
"Simply stated, handheld portable devices must be rendered inoperable whenever the automobile is in motion or when the transmission shaft lever is in forward or reverse gear," Jeffrey Coben and Motao Zhu wrote in an essay in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Automobile and cellphone equipment manufacturers have the engineering capabilities to implement these safeguards and they should be required to do so."
Passing a law is not enough to solve the problem, Coben and Zhu said, because in surveys 40 percent of drivers admit to talking on the phone while driving and 13 percent admit to texting, even in states that have banned such activities.
Experts at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis in Boston have calculated drivers using cellphones cause 333,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths per year, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
The only solution is to make the technology unavailable while driving, Coben and Zhu said.
"As individuals continue to use their cellphones nearly continuously throughout the day, for both business and pleasure, they will continue to be tempted to use this technology -- if available -- while driving," they wrote.