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What the cellphone industry won't tell you

Next time you get a call on the road, pull over.

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In mid-January, the National Safety Council called for a nationwide ban on the use of cellphones while driving, citing overwhelming evidence of the risk of injuries and death from driver distraction.

California has banned texting behind the wheel and, along with several other states, prohibits the use of hand-held phones while allowing drivers to talk with hands-free devices. But research has shown talking is risky even when both hands are free, because the mind is somewhere else.

About 4 in 5 cellphone owners make calls while driving, and nearly 1 in 5 sends text messages, according to a survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. The habit is so deeply ingrained that the likelihood of all-out bans seems practically nil.

Individuals still can make the sensible decision to hang up and drive, but they won't get any encouragement from the wireless industry.

"A sensible, a responsible and a brief phone call, we think, can be made, and sometimes needs to be made, in order for life's everyday challenges to be met," said a senior official of the main industry trade group, known as CTIA – The Wireless Association.

No business is comfortable telling its customers what to do – particularly when the advice weighs against its bottom line. It's not surprising then that wireless providers have taken the familiar road of denying scientific research and plain common sense.


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