REFLECTIONS

Posted on December 18, 2011

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STOP DRIVING WHILE CALLING

CELL PHONES AND DRIVING DON’T MIX

Cell phone conversations and driving don’t mix.

And it does not matter whether you are talking on a hand cell phone or keeping both hands on the wheel and talking on a hand-free phone.

Either way, the experts says, you are almost sure to suffer “inattention blindness” and quadruple your chances of getting into an accident.

That’s the strong science behind a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board, which we support, that all states enact a complete ban on the use of cell phones by motorists while driving.

This recommendation came after a study of an Interstate 44 crash near Gray Summit, Missouri, between two trucks and two school buses which resulted in the death of two teens.

A 19-year-old driver of the truck, which crashed into another truck, had sent 11 text messages in the space of 11 minutes before the accident while driving at 55 mph. He then rear ended a truck which was slowing down for road work. Then a school bus rear-ended that accident, and a second school bus rear-ended the first bus. The school buses carried students going to a theme park.

The texting pickup driver did not cause those school bus brakes to fail, nor did he cause the bus drivers to not keep proper distance or go to escape routes.

We won’t belabor the many obvious dangers of using a cell phone while driving. Does anybody really need to be told that tapping out a phone number while zooming down the Interstate highway is a bad idea?

Far less appreciated is the danger of driving while talking on a hand-free device, such as a wireless headset. All cell phone conversations significantly reduce our awareness while driving, unlike a conversation with somebody sitting right there in the passenger seat.

In fact, that other person in the car,  if an adult, actually acts as a helpful second driver, pointing out lights, pedestrians and signs, and naturally pausing in the conversation when the driving gets tight.

Driver distraction, topped by cell phone use, is now listed by the National Safety Council as one of three leading causes of fatal car crashes, along with speeding and drinking.

Nine states have banded the use of hand-held phones while driving, and two countries, Germany and Portugal, have completely banned the use of cell phones while driving.

If you need to talk or text on your cell phone, you should pull off the road to do that. Missouri needs to ban all cell phone use while motorists drive.

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