It’s an all too familiar sight: a cell-phone-wielding maniac weaving in and out of traffic and drifting across lanes, completely distracted by the device glued to his ear. Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is now illegal in nearly 30 countries, and studies have shown that gabbing with a foot on the gas can be more lethal than drinking and driving.

Unsafe driving - cell phone use while driving is illegal in many parts of Philadelphia and New Jersey

Statistics show that drivers who are distracted by talking on a cell phone or dialing digits while driving are causing more and more accidents. Some municipalities have banned using cell phones while driving because it is such a risky distraction.

If you want to use your cell phone in the car – PULL OVER.  However, if you must talk while you drive, you should have a hands-free cell phone cradle installed in your car so you keep both hands on the wheel, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Even so, remember to stay aware of what is going on around you on the road. It’s easy to get so engrossed in conversation that you miss exits or don’t notice what other drivers are doing.

According to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, six percent of the auto accidents in the U.S. each year can be attributed to cell phone use, which works out to 2,600 fatalities and 330,000 injuries.  If you dial and drive you quadruple your chances of getting into an accident.

Here’s what the statistics have taught us so far:

•The majority of cell-phone-using drivers involved in crashes were talking on their cell phones at the time of impact.  Therefore, phone conversations, rather than dialing, are the most frequently reported crash factor.

•A few drivers were startled when their cell phone rang, and as they reached for their phones they ran off the road.

•An overwhelming majority of cell phone users involved in crashes struck cars or other large objects that were in clear view.

•Manually dialing a cell phone can disrupt vehicle control activities, such as maintaining speed and staying in the proper lane.

•Cellular telephone use while driving increases the risk of a crash.

•As the number of cellular phones used while driving increases, the number of crashes will increase.

The statistics on cell phone use and crashes are not complete because most states don’t require law enforcement officers to record the use of a cell phone in a crash investigation.