Harvard Study Links Cell Phones To Auto Wrecks

It's impossible to drive down the road without seeing a driver with a cell phone pressed against their ear. And with cell phone ownership jumping from 94 million to 128 million in just two years, it's possible drivers will see more of them in the future.

However, a new study completed at Harvard University says there's a high price to pay for using phones on the highways. According to the study, cell phones cause 6 percent of all auto wrecks each year, 2600 fatalities and 330,000 injuries.

"They're not aware of the things going on around them," says a Tyler driver whose tired of seeing cell phones on the roadways. "They're into their conversation, laughing, talking, just doing their hands every which way."

"There's been a few that have cut me off," says another driver.

But a ban on cell phones could prove as controversial as the phones themselves, especially since the phones have saved as many lives as they've taken.

Tyler Fire Chief Paul White says before cell phones, emergency crews could go 30 minutes without getting a call on a wreck or fire. "It's definitely a way for people to notify us in a quicker manner than they did in the past," says Chief White. "We tend to get calls immediately after an accident or fire, people spot it and call in."

Chief White remembers a time when drivers would go by a fire and not report it, because they assumed somebody else already had. He says the convenience of cell phones has eliminated that problem.

Chief White says the best policy is to have a cell phone with you, but pull over if you need to use it.

In Texas, the Department of Public Safety is finishing up it's first report on cell phone related accidents. They didn't start examining the wrecks as separate incidents until a few years ago. The study is expected later this month.