(NaturalNews) A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health is one of the first of its kind to analyze the effects of driving while talking on a mobile phone or "texting". According to the findings, roughly 16,000 people died between 2001 and 2007 due to mobile phone-related traffic accidents.
"Our results suggested that recent and rapid increases in texting volumes have resulted in thousands of additional road fatalities in the United States," wrote Fernando Wilson and Jim Stimpson from the University of North Texas Health Science Center and authors of the study in their report.
The data indicates that right around the time texting volumes significantly increased, there was a corresponding increase in the number of automobile accident fatalities that involved driver distraction, pointing directly to phone use in the car.
"Since roughly 2001-2002, texting volumes have increased by several hundred percent," Wilson is quoted as saying in a recent Reuters article. And according to the same article, texting volume increased an astounding 11,000 percent between 2002 and 2008.
"Since 2001 our model predicts that about 16,000 people have died since then that we attribute to the increase in texting volume in the United States."
Interestingly, overall traffic deaths are actually down, having hit their lowest level since the 1950s in 2009. But among these, the proportion of those attributable to mobile phones has drastically increased compared to other causes of death.
"Distracted deaths as a share of all road fatalities increased from 10.9 percent to 15.8 percent from 1999 to 2008, and much of the increase occurred after 2005," wrote researchers.
Many states have already outlawed texting while driving or talking on the phone without a hands-free device in order to curb the sharp rise in accidents and deaths. But others say that individuals, rather than the government, need to be begin taking more personal responsibility for their actions by saving their conversations for when they are not driving.