Many Canadians use cell phones while driving even though they know it increases risk of accident.
Photo Credit: CBC

Doctors urged to stop cell phone use while driving


Canada’s family doctors are being asked to advise their patients to stop using mobiles while driving and to stop doing it themselves. Although there is growing awareness about the increased risk of accidents, many still do it, says a recent article in the journal Canadian Family Physician. The article is called “Fatal Distraction.”

Speaking on a cellphone while driving increases the risk of collision by four to six times according to studies. Texting increases the risk up to 23 times. Road accidents are the leading cause of death for Canadians under the age of 34.

At any given time one in 20 Canadians is using a cellphone while driving. Four out of five teenagers do it.

Doctors do it too, says the article’s co-author Dr. Victoria Lee, a family medicine resident at the University of Alberta in western Canada. Lee says they need to stop, set an example and use their unique positions to bring up the issue with their patients during their medical check-ups.

Hands-free cell use while driving is dangerous too
studies indicate
© Ric Francis/Associated Press

Hands-free no better

Speaking on a cell phone is illegal in many Canadian provinces, but some allow hands-free devices. “These bans mislead the public and encourage them to trade one dangerous habit for another equally dangerous one,” says the article.

Less risky is speaking with a passenger in the car, explains Lee. In those situations the conversation ebbs and flows as both the driver and passenger take in the road conditions and acknowledge the need to pay attention to them. The same is not true of the person on the other end of the cell phone who will keep on talking and expecting responses unaware of the traffic situation.

“Turn off the phone”

Once patients are convinced of the risk of cell phone use while driving, Lee suggests doctors give them concrete strategies to avoid the practice. These include turning off a cell phone when getting into a car, setting up a voice mail system that lets callers know you might be driving, asking passengers to take calls, and if a call is unavoidable, pulling over. She also suggests not calling people when you know they are driving.

“I think there’s a lot that we can do from individual counselling to larger, broad scale things like legislation changes and policy changes, said Lee. “I think we’re at the cusp of what I think could be an epidemiological disaster because it’s such a prevalent problem and it’s such a huge risk.”

Dr. Victoria Lee says “Don’t use your cell phone
while you’re driving.”
© Nikolas Romaniuk
Posted in Health, Society

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2 comments on “Doctors urged to stop cell phone use while driving
  1. Paula Graham says:

    Cellphone Mayhem
    By: Paula Graham

    As we delve deeper into the age of technology, more issues with distracted driving are arising. The use of cellphones while driving has become an undeniable issue. Even respectable Canadian family doctors are doing it. Doctors need to stop using their cell-phones while driving. By driving while using mobile phones, they are setting a bad example for other people as well as their own patients. I don’t believe doctors should be the only people responsible for advising drivers to discontinue cell-phone use while driving. How can other people stop doing this when the person advising them is guilty of doing the same thing? There needs to be another person available to instruct the doctors not to use their cell-phones while driving, before the doctors can give this advice to anyone else.

    People often take medical advice from their doctors. This is where I can see the benefit in having doctors advise their patients not to drive with mobile devices. Most doctors have many patients. If doctors can advise many of their patients to not use cell-phones while driving, they could potentially reduce the number of people who do use cell-phones while driving. The reduced number of people using cell-phones may also reduce the number of roadside accidents.

    But what about the people who don’t have a family physician? I think, in order to reach a broader range of people with this issue, more people should be available to give advice against distracted driving. There should be more government officials available to provide advice about how to eliminate cell-phone distraction while driving. For example, police officers and educators could get more involved with providing advice about this issue. More public awareness as well as community groups for distracted drivers would be another option.

    In 2012 there were 57 deaths caused by distracted driving in Saskatchewan. Distracted driving in Saskatchewan has caused more deaths than drinking and driving.There has been many public warnings issued regarding this problem, along with many vehicle accidents across Canada. Even with these two factors, people still disregard this problem and continue to talk or text on their cell-phones while driving. So many vehicle accidents could be avoided if people only turned off their cell-phones. How many more vehicular accidents have to occur before people learn their lesson?

    There is no doubt technology has become the central focus in everyones’ daily lives. Most people have cellphones.The use of mobile devices has become a worldwide obsession. I myself have a cell-phone, and I realize the risks involved with driving and using it. I always set my cell-phone aside while driving. The use of cell-phones has become a distraction for people in public places. The fact that people continue to use their cell-phone while driving is becoming ridiculous. As people’s infatuation with cell-phone use increases, the possibility of eliminating distracted driving is more difficult to resolve. If this issue is not resolved soon, it may never be resolved. So the next time you are using your cell-phone while driving take the time to think about what you are doing. Otherwise, this thought could be your very last.

  2. David Gerrior says:

    I wish people would get the message. Every day I see people who are not paying attention. A new trick I see is people stopping at a stop sign and sitting there while they talk on the phone. Somehow they think this is alright. Last week I sat behind a woman leaving the hospital and she sat at the stop sign and talked on her phone. Of course I could not see what she was doing and gave her a gentle beep to remind her someone was also trying to leave the hospital. That did not do any good so I had to pull out to go around her and of course someone else was trying to drive in and we came face-to-face. This could have caused an accident. It was then that I was able to see her just sitting there on the phone tying up traffic in the hospital entrance talking on her phone oblivious to the world around her.

    I almost hate to say my next comment because I’m sure some folks will take it the wrong way. But here goes. The worst offenders are young women. I would say that of all the people I see driving and talking (and it is illegal here in BC) about 80% are young to middle-aged women. This is merely an observation and not a comment on women drivers. If I was to target a group for education it would be them. Why this is the case I have no idea but I wish they would consider how dangerous talking and/or texting is while driving.