Don’t text or use phones while drivingThe evidence is in: Don’t text and drive. For that matter, don’t talk (on your cell phone) and drive, either. And get ready for the day when such texting and talking while driving are illegal, given the fact that they’re just about as risky as driving drunk. An ongoing series in The New York Times is making the case, and the numbers are getting harder and harder to deny
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
The evidence is in:
Don’t text and drive. For that matter, don’t talk (on your cell phone) and drive, either.
And get ready for the day when such texting and talking while driving are illegal, given the fact that they’re just about as risky as driving drunk.
An ongoing series in The New York Times is making the case, and the numbers are getting harder and harder to deny:
— “Extensive research shows the dangers of distracted driving,” The Times reported.
“Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated.
“Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.”
— “A 2003 Harvard study estimated that cell phone distractions caused 2,600 traffic deaths every year, and 330,000 accidents that result in moderate or severe injuries.”
— And “the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers — in part, officials say, because of concerns about angering Congress.”
The newspaper goes on to provide not only heartbreaking anecdotes about distracted motorists whose inattention killed other people in car accidents, but also quotes from federal and state regulators, who are deeply reluctant to try to break such a now-ingrained habit.
For example, talking on a cell phone while driving remains legal in all 50 states. A few states prohibit talking on hand-held phones.
“This year, state legislators introduced about 170 bills to address distracted driving, but passed fewer than 10,” The Times reported.
In fact, Americans not only “largely ignore” the research but also “increasingly use phones, navigation devices and even laptops to turn their cars into mobile offices, chat rooms and entertainment centers, making roads more dangerous.”
But here’s a prediction: That’s certain to change. A society so risk-conscious that it bans cigarette smoking in public parks and outdoor stadiums won’t long tolerate this far more immediate and catastrophic risk.
Other countries already have acted in response. Talking on a hand-held phone is illegal in most of Europe; in Germany, “when an accident occurs, the police will immediately request to see your cell phone,” a Times reader posted in a comment.
“If they find that your cell phone was ‘in use’ at the time of the accident, you are automatically deemed to be ‘at fault’ for the subsequent accident. Pretty good deterrent.”
Talking on a hand-held phone also is illegal on U.S. Department of Defense bases. And while these laws are a start, they dodge the fact that hands-free telephoning is no safer than using a hand-held phone.
Again, given the statistics, the chances are good that the days of people using their cell phones while driving are numbered. But individual motorists shouldn’t wait for the change. Using a cell phone while driving presents a terrible risk, even for motorists who think they’re not impaired. The best advice is the one that’s offered in virtually every traffic safety study: Don’t do it.