US Squelched Data on Car Phone Danger

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2009 4:53 AM CDT
Chan Om uses his hands-free cell phone device next to his car outside of Best Buy in Mountain View, Calif., last year.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
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(Newser) – In 2003 a federal agency compiled hundreds of pages of research on the dangers of using cell phones while driving, but suppressed the findings because of pressure from Congress. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a part of the Transportation Department, also planned a long-term study of the risks of cell phone use but never undertook it. Two consumer advocacy groups obtained the findings, which are published today by the New York Times.

Motorists talking on a phone, even hands-free, are four times more likely to cause an accident—the equivalent of driving with a .08 blood alcohol content. Yet the agency walked away from further research, in part because officials feared losing billions in financing if Congress perceived them to be lobbying. "We’re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up," said one consumer advocate.