Washington, Dec. 2: The death toll from crashes caused by drivers talking on their wireless phones appears to be rising significantly as the devices become a must-have accessory.
A study being released by Harvard University’s Center for Risk Analysis estimates a rate of 2,600 deaths a year in such crashes, compared with the same researchers’ estimate of 1,000 fatalities only two years ago, in America.
“The amount of time people spend using their cellphones while driving has increased, probably reflecting the fact that it is becoming cheaper to use the devices,” said research scientist Joshua Cohen, the study’s author.
The Harvard study also estimated that 570,000 injuries a year and 1.5 million crashes resulting in property damage can be blamed on wireless phone use.
The study will feed into a debate that pits personal freedom and convenience against safety concerns.
Previous economic analysis by Harvard researchers had found that the benefits of being able to readily communicate for business or pleasure while on the road clearly outweighed the social costs of injuries and deaths in accidents.
Cohen’s latest calculations found that the costs are now roughly equal to the benefits.