Cell phones make life so much easier, don’t they? The portability of today’s compact wireless phone means consumers are no longer constrained by location. Stay in touch with family and friends, or conduct business and other important transactions. Kill two birds with one stone: get everything you need done while driving.
Millions of Americans willingly admit that they talk on their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. Does this sound safe? An alarming number of cell phone users—of which there are over 236 million and growing—also admit that they don’t consider cell phone use while driving a safe practice. As a population of multi-taskers we seem incapable of stopping ourselves.
Automobiles and cell phones don’t mix. A University of Utah study implies driving while talking on a cell phone reduces a driver’s response time to the same levels observed in drunk drivers and “old folks.” Even though automakers initially built mobile phones into car systems, and they continue to design successive generations of sophisticated telecommunications bundles, statistics are mounting that suggest distractions from cell phones increase accidents.
Profoundly alarming studies, however, fly in the face of even current cell phone legislation. States that ban use of hand-held phones while driving fail to acknowledge the growing body of evidence that shows, hand-held or hands-free, it’s the act of participation in a conversation that’s tantamount in the cell phone safety debate.
A growing body of evidence suggests that drivers that simply involve themselves in a conversation suffer debilitating distractions. Hands-free phones may even lead drivers to believe they are safer, argue some safety advocates. Complex business transactions and emotionally involved conversations reduce driver reaction times and steal away attention. on the part of all drivers.
Debate participants include auto insurance companies, consumer safety advocates, lobbyists for the telecommunications industry, and even Corporate America. Opposing arguments are most heated between those that favor widespread cell phone bans while driving—consumer advocates--and those that favor consumer education over legislation of any kind—lobbyists for the telecommunications industry. Corporate America stands alone, stung with costly liability cases, which means business and industry, both large and small are willing to do whatever it takes to ease their worries, even if it includes banning employees from making or taking any kind of business calls while driving.
Driver education is most necessary where teens are concerned. Today’s young adult already has well formed beliefs on safe and unsafe driving behaviors thanks to the example set by most parents. Students Against Drunk Driving and Liberty Mutual Insurance conducted a study that revealed 62% of high school-age drivers use their cell phones while driving and of those, 24% believe the practice is perfectly safe.
Tips for safe driving are a necessity for both parents and teens. In some states drivers must now use a hands-free device to “dial while driving” and in Washington State texting is outlawed. The last frontier is populated with auto manufacturers that seem out of synch with the driver-cell phone controversy. Next generation autos are bundled with sophisticated on-board telecommunications equipment that seem determined to defy the growing bunker of statistics on driver distractions. Their argument: everything’s hands-free.