Hang up and drive for God’s sake!

That’s it. I’ve officially decided. I’m supporting the initiatives to ban cell phone use while driving. Bluetooth, hands free, hand held or implanted in your skull — I want them all banned. I understand the convenience factor. I understand that we spend so much time in our cars that sometimes it is nearly unavoidable to have to receive or make a phone call while behind the wheel. But for a lot of people talking on the phone has become as much a part of driving as listening to the radio. Every morning I observe people get in their car, start the car, put on their seat belt and start dialing a phone number — and not always in that specific order. I see people pulling out of their subdivision, no more than 100 yards from their driveway, and already dialing a number. I know for a fact that these are not high powered executives trying to place their orders before the stock market opens. Come on! What exactly DO YOU have so important to discuss that it can’t wait until later?

A lot of research is being done on how talking on the cell phone impacts one’s driving ability. I believe that every word of these research is true. Driving and talking, from my personal experience, is worse than driving under the influence. To confirm that just observe driving patterns of vehicles around you. If you’re following a car, you can pretty much tell the moment the driver ahead of you gets on a call: the car slows down, the car start moving with less certainty than before — the overall behavior of the car changes completely the instance that call starts. I myself have had calls while driving where I had no recollection of how I arrived at my destination: I remember leaving the house, I’m in my office’s parking lot, but I don’t remember anything in between other than being on the phone. Freaky and scary, isn’t it? If I had that much to drink to the point of not being fully aware of my surroundings, I wouldn’t be driving. But a phone conversation is perfectly OK as long as I do hands free.

Have we become a nation of multi-taskers who are simply incapable of doing 1 thing at a time? Is piloting 2500 pounds of metal propelling down the highway at speeds unimaginable by average drivers only 30 years ago nowadays considered such a mundane task that our brains are in danger of decaying unless we give them the extra stimulation of a phone conversation? I would believe that, if we had no traffic accidents, but, since car accidents happen roughly every 1 second to the tune of 6 million incidents every year in the USA alone, I contend that we are still a long ways away from being good drivers.

Now, I don’t know how to truly enforce the no-talking-while-driving rule. I think a great deal will depend on drivers themselves recognizing how truly dangerous and irresponsible the whole thing is.

For myself, while I haven’t been able to completely eliminate talking on the phone while driving, I’ve been trying to reduce the overall number and duration of my calls. And if I do have to be on the call, I try to move over to the right and get the hell out of the other drivers’ way.

What do you think?

3 Responses

  1. You can’t really ban talking on the phone using Bluetooth or a regular headset, since there is no practical way to enforce it. Talking with a phone to your ear is simply stupid and I believe grounds for being pulled over IF the car is moving at speed (i.e. not in stop and go traffic jams) and IF the driver is on the phone for more than a few seconds.

    I would also support police access to cell phone records (the times and durations at least – numbers not really relevant) for anyone involved in an accident. If it can be clearly established that a conversation was ongoing before the accident, that could be factored into the fault equation.

    Setting aside the law enforcement aspect of driving while talking (or texting), I think there is also a public awareness campaign in order. If you’re talking to someone about your trip, e.g. to get directional guidance or to let someone know you’re running late, or to communicate some important information like “please make sure the stove is off”, I see a *short* call as totally justified. Any prolonged conversation that isn’t related to the task of driving should be discouraged through the use of creative ads and whatnot. If you just say “don’t talk on your phone” folks won’t take you seriously. If you acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons to talk and stigmatize just the bad practices, I think you’ll stand a better chance of actually changing behavior.

  2. It’s all about behavior, responsible behavior. Most people wouldn’t think about driving while sipping sipping a bloody mary. Most people put their kids in the back seat and make sure they are buckled in. Driving and talking on the phone is no different.

  3. I have to agree here there is nothing worse than getting stuck behind a driver that is not concentrating on driving and when passing them only to discover that they are on their mobiles, even though there are rules about driving and speaking on the people even the police are guilty of doing they same thing, Alex I agree with your comment its all about responsible behavior.

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