Published: Jun 10, 2010 7:07 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 10, 2010 4:08 PM EDT

WALTHAM, Mass. - Calling or texting while driving is the subject of an article in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

The author suggests doctors talk to patients about their driving cell phone habits each time they come in for an annual checkup.  Discussing the potential health consequence of distracted driving may be as important as talking about the use of seat belts, cigarettes and alcohol or drugs.

According to the author, 275 million Americans have cell phones and 81% talk on the phone while driving.  Calling or texting behind the wheel
causes 1.6 million traffic accidents in the U.S. each year.  that's 28% of all accidents.   In fact drivers using cell phones are 4 times more likely to get in a crash than fellow drivers who are not distracted -- which is comparable to driving while intoxicated.  Texting drivers may be up to 23 times more likely to get in a crash than if they'd kept their eyes on the road.  And using a hand-free device doesn't make phone use any safer.  The best bet is to pull over to the side of the road if you need to make a call or simply wait until you get to your destination.