BIDMC logoMobile phone use while driving though common is certainly a cause of concern leading many jurisdictions to ban them. Texting while driving leads to increased distraction behind the wheel and experts associated with a new study reveal that its time for physicians to talk to their patients about driving when distracted.

Scientist’s reveals that physicians usually ask patients about habits associated with potential harm like the use of helmets, seatbelts, cigarettes, condoms, drugs and alcohol. 28 percent of overall accidents in the United States are induced to texting or talking on the cellphone while driving. The experts share that its time to take appropriate actions and put a halt to these issues.

Amy Ship, MD, a primary care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center shares that, “When a doctor raises an issue while providing overall preventive care, the message is different from that conveyed by a public service announcement nestled between ads for chips and beer or a printed warning on a product box”. “It’s time for us to ask patients about driving and distraction.”

The increased risk of collisions linked to distracted drivers is difficult to evaluate. Ship shares that one study revealed talking and driving to have a four time increased risk as compared to undistracted driving. The new study revealed that texting raised the risk of collision by a factor of 23.

“More than 275 million Americans own cell phones and 81 percent of them talk on those phones while driving. The adverse consequences have reached epidemic proportions.”

Ship suggests that questions about drugs, alcohol, smoking and other risks have minimal benefits however this has not restricted clinicians from making inquiries. In addition she shares that as technology evolves the questions must be updated keeping in mind the risks that are likely to occur. She often comes across patients who wonder why talking on the hands free device is more dangerous than talking to the person accompanying you.

Ship says. “First is the obvious risk associated with trying to maneuver a phone, but cognitive studies have also shown that we are unable to multitask and that neurons are diverted differently depending on whether we are talking on a phone or talking to a passenger”.

But for the ultimate skeptic, Ship has a ready response: “How would you feel if the surgeon removing your appendix talked on the phone hands-free of course while operating?”

Conclusively Ship mentions that clinicians have a commitment to adjust to societal changes and revise their model of preventive care. Primary care doctors are mainly expected to teach and influence patients and it is a power that shouldn’t be misused. Questions about driving and distraction are as important as the preventive care that is provided. In addition she shares that physicians should question patients about distracted driving and efforts should be made to educate patients and reduce their risk.

This study was published in the June 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.