On the road, off the phone

A woman on a cell phone while driving

Driving while talking or texting on a cell phone can be a divisive topic. It's not safe, yet people still do it. Restrictions vary, so anyone driving across state lines better have an excellent memory or err completely on the side of caution to abide all of the laws.

I'll be honest, the closest I've ever come to getting into an accident with another vehicle happened while I was talking on my cell phone. That was enough for me to realize that the only time I should be holding a phone and talking in a car is when I am a passenger. My car is now equipped with a hands-free system that pipes my phone through my stereo and allows me to answer or place a call by pushing a single button on the wheel. I have used this system while driving, but not regularly because it's still a distraction.

If you look at the definition provided by distraction.gov, distracted driving involves any of the three main types of distraction:

  • Visual – taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive – taking your mind off your driving

This means plenty of things are distractions while driving: talking with passengers, eating, using a map, changing the radio, etc. We've all seen people doing this while driving and we've probably done them ourselves. Let's consider the distracted driving statistics:

  • According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 20% of injury crashes in 2009 involved distracted driving and 18% of distracted driving fatalities involved cell phones.
  • According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a driver using a hand-held device is four times as likely to get into a crash causing injury to him or herself.
  • According to a University of Utah study, using a cell phone while driving, either hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol content of .08 percent.

That last statistic is most alarming. I would never drive drunk or buzzed and I won't let my friends drive drunk or buzzed. But if I or they are talking on a cell phone, the impairment is similar. That train of thought should be enough to make anyone think twice before picking up a phone while behind the wheel, so we can all get to our destinations safe and sound. And that's what we want for you, because your safety is important to us. Please hang up and focus on the road.

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