Use Mobile Phones to Improve—Not Risk—Your Health

Lygeia Ricciardi

Lygeia Ricciardi

Do you text and drive? I know, it’s tempting: you’re stuck in traffic and you instinctively reach for your cell phone to send a text saying you’re running late, or maybe just check your email, or make a quick call before the light changes….

But the impact can be deadly: nearly 10% of all road deaths in 2010 were related to “distracted-affected crashes” according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A recent survey Exit Disclaimer by Consumer Reports shows that most young American drivers are aware of the risks of texting while driving, but about a third say they do it anyway. Younger drivers (between 18 and 20) are nearly three times as likely as older drivers to use email or text while driving.

But the reminder applies to all of us—if you want to use a cell phone while driving, do so only with a hands-free device. In ten states and the District of Columbia, it’s the law.

While these days information technology and cars may be largely a risky combination, in the near future that could change. Last January, Ford, Microsoft, Healthrageous and BlueMetal Architects announced plans to develop “doctor in your carExit Disclaimer — a new hands-free system that will help to monitor your heath as you drive by capturing biometric data from sensors as well as information you share verbally about your health habits, such as whether you’ve taken prescribed medications, or how many glasses of water you’ve had in a day.

It’s just one of the ways mobile technology can help support your health. From my perspective, the intersection of mobile technology and health (aka “mHealth”) is exciting because it helps to extend healthcare outside of hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices and into the pockets and purses of most Americans. Many people already use mobile phones to search the internet for health information, and we’re seeing thousands of apps and services that let you communicate with your doctor between appointments, get access to your medical records online, remember routine health screenings, or support you in meeting a health goal like exercising more or quitting smoking.

The near future holds many opportunities to harness information technology, including mobile phones, to improve your health – be smart in how you use them on the road so you’ll be around to take advantage of them.

Lygeia Ricciardi is the Acting Director of the Office of Consumer eHealth at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Her office supports consumers, patients and families in being partners in their health information technology (health IT). To learn more about how health IT can benefit you, go to


  1. Shame on you for not doing your research. Hands-free devices offer drivers NO SAFETY BENEFIT. All they do is allow the driver to put one more hand on the wheel. People have been driving stick shift vehicles for years. It’s not a matter of hands on the wheel. It’s a matter of mind on the task of driving. We are not capable of performing two cognitively demanding tasks at the same time. Adult passengers are actually a safety benefit as they are an extra set of eyes and they typically point out hazards and modify the conversation when it becomes challenging. People on the phone can’t do that. I suggest you read the National Safety Council’s white paper “Understanding the Distracted Brain” and write a follow up post that is based on research, not your opinion. People are dying because they don’t understand the dangers and posts such as yours give them a false sense of security.

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