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Doctors' group: Phone use in car risky business

From Fionnuala Sweeney
CNN London Bureau

LONDON, England (CNN) -- While scientists continue to investigate the potential hazards of mobile phones, a new report in Britain says evidence indicates using a phone while driving is dangerous.

The report by the British Medical Association warns that cellular phone conversation while driving, even hands-free, substantially increases the risk of an accident.

"It may be that we're using a different part of our brain," said Vivien Nathenson of the British Medical Association. "It may be just that we are concentrating so much that we are not taking in and juggling all the other messages -- the things that we see and the things that we hear while we're driving."


Given the dangers, the BMA says phone calls while driving should be kept to an absolute minimum.

Wireless connection to traffic deaths

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents goes further, saying mobile phones in cars should be banned entirely. It says the use of mobile phones has been linked to at least 14 deaths in Britain since 1994 and may have contributed to thousands of other accidents.

The use of hands-free cell phones while driving is legal in Britain. But police routinely give tickets to drivers using hand-held phones for driving without undue care.

It's estimated that there are 700 million mobile phone users around the world, and the BMA says there could be as many as 1 billion users by the end of next year.

The World Health Organization is currently researching the safety of mobile phone technology, including radiation exposure.

Radiation studies inconclusive

Two U.S. congressmen also asked this week for more study on the health effects of radiation from wireless phones after government research proved inconclusive.

The British Medical Association also says current research on radiation is inconclusive.

"The fact is, when you actually look at the effect that the radiation has, we can't say that they're safe. We can't say that they're dangerous. But we do know that it's a dose-related effect if there's a danger," Nathenson said.

The bottom line from the BMA is that the less a cell phone is used, the less potential risk.

• Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
• World Health Organization

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