Stay Alive - - Don't Use Your Cell When You Drive and Watch Those That Do

The Wall Street Journal reports on research showing hands-free cell phone talking while driving is unsafe at any speed: If you'd like to dramatically reduce your odds of finding yourself in an accident, don't talk on a cell phone while driving regardless of whether you're holding it or using a hands-free system.

The cellular industry doesn't like it, sure, but the growing body of research reviewed in this article makes it clear that talking on a cell phone while driving has a significantly different impact on your ability to stay focused on the road than any other activity, including listening to the radio or talking to passengers. As the Car Talk guys bumper sticker says (see upper left), Drive Now, Talk Later! Studies to the contrary turn out not to be to the contrary, and have had the usual PR spin put on them.

You know why we have anti-bacterial soap all across the U.S.? Because of a single study done on the cleanliness of street vendors in Mexico. It all traces back to that. A public-health crisis, producing more and more resistant strains of bacteria, results from companies choosing to use limited information to promote a message instead of performing more science to determine appropriate ways to market their products.

The same is true here: cell companies could promote safer uses of phones, but their money is in pushing minutes (at the moment). When cell operators finally switch to unlimited monthly plans, they'll want people to talk less, just as AOL did when they switched from hourly billing to unmetered monthly service. When that switch happens, you can bet we'll see a 100-percent full-court press on restricting talking at all while driving.

But one of the key take home points I want to emphasize is that even if you don't use a cell phone when you drive you need to be VERY careful and watch those that do. Just open your eyes up and you will see virtually everyone who is making some stupid driving mistake is talking on a cell phone. So when you see someone talking on a cell phone just drive extra carefully and be aware that they may make some careless move at any second.

Wall Street Journal July 19, 2004

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