The Hidden Killer

The New England Journal of Medicine, the best-known medical magazine, published in its issue of 13 February 1997 the results of a study concerning the effects of using a cellphone while driving on car accident rates.


The reason behind conducting the study is the fact that car accidents are the leading cause of death among children and youth in the United States, which made some countries prohibit using a cellphone while driving.


Participants in the study were 699 drivers who used their cellphone in their cars and were involved in a car crash with material losses without injuries.


Researchers revised the call logs for all these drivers on the day when the accident occurred, as well as the weeks that preceded the accident, with the aid of phone companies.


 About 79,826 phone calls were studied during 14 months – which is the duration of the study – and the results showed that using a cellphone while driving quadrupled the chance for a car accident. It was also found out that the chance for a car accident is higher during the 5 minutes following the end of the phone call than during the 15 minutes after the phone call. The results also indicated that using a hand-free device in the car did not lower the rates of accidents.


The study concluded that using a cellphone in the car, even for a short period of time, increases the chance for a car accidents 4 times higher than the normal rates, regardless of other factors such as the position of the cellphone in the car or using a hand-free device. It is believed that the reason behind this is the driver’s mental preoccupation and the lack of concentration which lasts for minutes after the end of the phone call, taking in consideration that an accident needs no longer than one second of lost attention to happen.


The study discussed the benefits of having a cellphone in the car, such as ease of communication in case of emergencies and the need to be available due to the nature of a profession as in the case with doctors.


The study concluded that it is hard to issue laws to deal with this problem, but it emphasized the big role of the individual and the importance of spreading awareness and diligence in society.


The study advised people who need to use a cellphone in their cars due to the nature of their job to lower the speed during the phone call and to avoid being occupied with anything else such as writing down notes or looking for a piece of paper or a pen etc. It also recommended drivers to wait until they reach their destination before making a phone call and to try to end the call as soon as possible or even hang up if the driver finds a difficulty in paying attention.


In our Arab societies, car accidents are also the leading cause of death among the youth. The cellphone invaded our societies and became easy to obtain by everyone regardless of whether or not it is necessary or important. It also became a means of entertainment and show off and even flirting among teenagers.


With the absence of awareness and responsibility and parental supervision, our youth and teenagers started flashing in the street, driving their luxury cars in the speed of light, and each one of them holds a cellphone in their hand, exposing themselves and others to dangers without knowing that one might end the life of a child or cause an ordeal to a family during the next second, or it could even be the last phone call they make in their life.


There are many things that are difficult to codify internationally, but it is the individual’s responsibility as well as that of the parents and educators. All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock.