I Just Called to Say You’re Stupid

There are few things in LA that are more dangerous than people working their cell phones while driving – not as dangerous as Lindsay on a bender, but close.  There are over two hundred million cell phone subscribers in the U.S. and it is estimated that 85% of cell phone owners use their phone while driving and that 60% of cell phone owner’s usage occurs while driving. In California, you are required to use handsfree if you want to drive and cell and it is against the law to text while driving…you also can’t drive with your feet and juggle…sorry circus folk. The ticket plus court costs for this cell phone blunder runs around 160 dollars. The cost of running into another car and killing someone would be considerably more…on a lot of levels.

It is clearly dangerous to drive with one hand on the wheel and one hand on your mobile, however, the distracting effects of the phone conversation on driving are also considerable. David Strayer, a University of Utah psychologist, has done a lot of cell phone research and has found that participants who engage in cell phone conversations are more likely to miss traffic signals and react to the signals more slowly than when they are not engaged in cell phone conversations. The equivalent deficits in driving performance were obtained for both users of handheld and hands-free cell phones. His research showed that listening to radio broadcasts or books on tape, by contrast, did not impair driving performance. Other research has found impairments in the ability of participants to detect changes in real-world traffic scenes when they were conversing on a hands-free device; however, no such performance decrements were observed when participants listened to prerecorded conversations from other participants. These findings demonstrate that listening to verbal material, by itself, is not sufficient to produce the dual-task interference associated with using a cell phone while driving. It seems that no matter how inane the conversations are there is a significant risk of talking while driving and such activity is responsible for a significant amount of automobile related injury.

The bottom line here is that driving is a very serious task and it requires one’s full attention…sorry, easily distracted circus folk.  So the next time someone calls while you are driving, be smart and and let it go: you could be saving your life and the lives of others.

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