AMA House of Delegates

AMA meeting: Keep hands off the handhelds, drivers urged

Delegates said the use of cell phones and other devices while on the road distracts drivers and endangers public safety.

By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted Nov. 23, 2009

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

A year after calling for a ban on driving while texting, the American Medical Association stepped up its attack on distracted driving. Any use of handheld devices while driving should be against the law, according to policy the AMA House of Delegates adopted at its Interim Meeting.

"We want your hands on the steering wheel," said AMA Board of Trustees member Edward L. Langston, MD, a Lafayette, Ind., family physician. "There's a growing body of data that's very definitive on the dangerous diversion of attention when using handheld devices. ... We're very supportive of legislation to deal with this."

The house is not seeking a ban on hands-free phone chatter behind the wheel, though studies have found that the cognitive distraction of holding a conversation -- not encumbered hands -- is what endangers drivers. Dr. Langston said that as more research on cell phones and driving emerges, the AMA may revisit its position.

Delegates said the use of cell phones and other devices on the road is getting out of hand and endangering drivers and others.

"I drive about 500 miles a week, and I regularly see people texting and talking on two different devices simultaneously," said Richard Pieters Jr., MD, a radiation oncologist and delegate who spoke on behalf of the Massachusetts Medical Society. "It is a very serious public health problem."

No state bans hands-free cell phone use, but six states and the District of Columbia bar holding the phone while driving. Texting while driving is against the law in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Drivers are four times more likely to crash when talking on a cell phone than when they are not, studies have found.

Back to top


Meeting notes: Public health

Issue: The growing popularity of computed tomography and other imaging tests is exposing patients to increasing cumulative amounts of ionizing radiation, with unclear effects on lifetime cancer risk.

Proposed action: Work with specialty societies to devise a common format to track individual patients' cumulative radiation exposure and develop related physician performance measures. [Adopted]

Issue: Physicians too often fail to spot cases of child abuse and neglect.

Proposed action: Develop a comprehensive strategy to help educate doctors about how to detect, report and treat the mistreatment of children while reducing conflicts with child protective services. [Adopted]

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn