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Cell phone use and two-way communication systems in automobiles are facing scrutiny again, this time from the Center for Auto Safety (CAS).

In a letter directed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), CAS Executive Director Clarence Ditlow petitioned for new laws to restrict the availability of two-way communication, including cell phones and services like General Motor’s OnStar and Volvo’s On Call. According to the letter, automakers have begun enhancing services like OnStar by offering additional features that allow drivers to gain access to e-mail, movie listings, and customized news reports, a trend CAS views as dangerous because it adds to the already long list of driver distractions. Ditlow said that the potential distractions are similar to permitting television monitors in the front seats of passenger vehicles, a practice that is not permitted by most state laws. He also said that the accident experience of drivers using cell phones has been shown to be similar to that of drunk drivers, noting statistics that show both behaviors increase the risk of a vehicle crash by four times.

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