Mr. Witonsky is wrong (Letters, New York Times, December 12, 2009: A34).
Using a voice-activated cell phone while driving is not the same thing as chatting with a passenger beside you.
When chatting with a passenger, that person is also aware of the road conditions, sensitive to unforeseen emergencies so will adjust whether or not he or she talks. The person at the other end of a cell phone conversations completely unaware of what is going on while one is driving so cannot adjust the pace of conversation as road conditions change.
The killer is the distracted attention of the driver, not whether the phone is hand held or fitted with some fancy new technology.
Sent to New York Times