A study finds talking on a cell phone while driving quadruples the risk of being in a crash and Iowa legislators are being asked to consider banning the use of cell phones by all motorists.

Bill Mulherin, spokesman for the Omaha-Council Bluffs area chapter of the National Safety Council, says cell phones contribute to six-percent of all crashes — that’s 636,000 crashes nationwide caused by those who talk and drive or text and drive.

Mulherin says, “The cell phone and the texting are a unique form of distraction because of the interaction that is required between the driver and the person on the other end of the conversation.”

A proposal to ban hand-held cell phones from being used by motorists was heard in late January by a subcommittee in the Iowa House. Mulherin hopes he’ll be able to educate people and businesses about the risk they and their employees face when having to answer their phones while driving.

“We want the public to educate themselves on what the dangers and the risks really are,” Mulherin says. “We would eventually like to see our lawmakers debate this issue.” He is hoping the information in the new study will influence people to make the decision on their own not to drive and use cell phones.

“An education process takes time, takes effort,” Mulherin says. “We would hope the public would voluntarily change their behavior and generally when that happens, the legislation becomes non-controversial.” Mulherin says statistics show cell phone use while driving leads to 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths nationwide every year. The overall cost of crashes that involve cell phones reaches $43-billion.

The council’s national president says, “Driving drunk is also dangerous and against the law. When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It’s time to take the cell phone away.” Five states and the District of Columbia have laws banning driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone. The three of the five states are on the east coast — Connecticut, New Jersey and New York; the other two are on the west coast — California and Washington.