By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says he’s concerned about a recent surge in fatal traffic accidents.

The alarming statistics became a topic at one of the Commissioners morning meetings this week. Through the first six weeks of this year there have been 17 traffic related deaths.

“We’ve had double the number of vehicle fatalities this year versus this same period last year,” Ramsey explained.

It remains to be seen whether this is merely a blip or a trend. But Ramsey is clearly concerned and he suspects that the surge may be related to cell phone use.

“Something’s is not right,” he said. “When you have a combination of distracted drivers, people who drive under the influence, people who just drive too fast you need people to be in the right state of mind but more importantly they need to be paying full-time attention to what they are doing.”

He says cell phones are a big part of the problem.

“Our own research at Triple A reports that 21 percent of drivers have admitted text messaging while driving. Now those are the people who admit it. Just imagine how many people do it and won’t admit it.”

A recent study by the University of Chicago found that social networking has become more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. Social Media consultant and Rowan Marketing Professor Jennifer Regina says more and more drivers are checking their email, Facebook and twitter pages.

“It has increased dramatically over the past few years especially with advent of people being able to use smart phones or afford smartphones so having the internet accessibility pretty much 24-7.”

It’s against the law to text while driving in Philadelphia. The law goes statewide on March 8th.