Mobility

Driving under the influence of a cell phone

In a recent blog, I talked about the possible dangers associated with cell phones: "Is your cell phone exciting? Your brain thinks so." However, there's no conclusive evidence that prolonged cell phone usage is harmful. "Further studies are needed to better circumstantiate these conditions and to provide safe rules for the use of this increasingly more widespread device."

While the jury is still out about the damaging effects of cell phones, a more recent news story talks about research results that say people who talk on cell phones while driving are as impaired as drunken drivers: "Study: Cell talkers as bad as drunken drivers." 

According to the article, "They [researchers] studied 40 volunteers who used a driving simulator four times—while undistracted, using a handheld cell phone, using a hands-free cell phone, and while intoxicated to a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level—the average legal level of impairment in the United States—after drinking vodka and orange juice."

Any guesses on how Chatty Cathy and Garrulous Gary performed? "Three study participants rear-ended the simulated car in front of them. All were talking on cell phones and none was drunk... Motorists who talked on either handheld or hands-free cell phones drove slightly more slowly, were 9 percent slower to hit the brakes, and varied their speed more than undistracted drivers."

Do you think these stats will prevent or even reduce the amount or frequency of people who talk on their cell phones while driving? Personally, I don't think so - unless a law is passed that prohibits people from talking on their cell phones while driving (which the researchers in this study suggest), and even then people will break the law... similar to most state laws that require people to wear seat belts.  

Ironically, I heard a story the other day about someone who was pulled over, arrested, and charged with DUI. Sure, this person was way over the legal alcohol limit to be behind the wheel, but the reason why she was stopped was because she was sending a text message and swerved her vehicle. Text messages weren't included in the study, but yet there are a lot of people out there who type messages into their cell phones instead of keeping their eyes on the road. What are your thoughts about outlawing cell phone use while driving?

About Sonja Thompson

Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.

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