Nearly two-thirds of American support a national ban on the use of mobile phones while driving, even if the driver is using a hands-free device, a poll released Thursday found.

A cell phone ban would increase highway safety "a great deal," said nearly half the 2,424 adults interviewed for the survey by pollsters at Quinnipiac University.

Seventy percent of the people polled said they rarely or never used a mobile phone while driving.

Only 10 percent said they used a phone "very often" while at the wheel of a vehicle, and another 20 percent admitted to "sometimes" using their phone while driving, the poll, which was conducted from November 8-15, found.

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called even hands-free cell phone use while driving a "cognitive distraction" and said he may push Congress for a national ban on using a phone, including hands-free devices, while at the wheel.

Some 5,500 people were killed last year by distracted drivers and half a million were maimed or injured, according to the Department of Transportation.

Many of the distracted drivers were using their mobile phones, iPods or Blackberries, LaHood said at a summit on distracted driving earlier this year.

Women were more likely than men to back a national ban on mobile phone use by drivers. Seventy percent of women backed the idea, compared to 55 percent of men.

Support for a ban on mobile phone use was also divided along age lines, with older Americans more likely than their younger counterparts to back the ban.

Three-quarters of the over-55s said a ban was a good idea compared to just over half of 18- to 34-year-olds.