Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cell Phones and Driving: Do They Mix?

Wikipedia Images

I carefully lifted my foot up off the gas pedal as I approached the white Suburban that swerved erratically ahead of me. I followed along as the driver slowed down, sped up, and slowed back down again. I watched a hand fly off the steering wheel in exasperation and then come back down quickly as once again the vehicle swerved in its lane. “That driver is on the phone!” I said to my son.

A few blocks later the Suburban merged into the left-turn lane – without signaling - and I gave it a good once-over as I passed. Sure enough, the driver was engaged in an animated conversation with one hand holding a cell phone up to her ear and the other flying around in the air while other cars waited behind her in the turning lane.

I know we fancy ourselves magnificent multi-taskers. And I also realize that we Americans like to use our time in a productive manner. However, talking or texting on a cell phone while driving is dangerous. Period.  

In 2010, 28% of all vehicular accidents were attributed to cell phone usage while driving.

Unfortunately, using a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth-enabled speakerphone does not prevent distraction while driving, either. The only way to ensure safe, focused driving is to refrain from using mobile devices when seated behind the wheel.

I know you don’t want me to tell you these things. I know you think you are a good, experienced driver and are more than capable of conversing and driving at the same time. But, what if you are not? What if the driver in front of, behind, beside, or coming toward you is not?

Is it worth losing a life just to make that one phone call, or place that one text?

Talking on a hand-held cellular device has been banned in 10 states. 39 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws prohibiting texting while driving. An additional 5 states – including Missouri - have placed texting restrictions on younger drivers.

While many states have enacted laws restricting cell phone use while driving, the fact remains that enforcement of such laws is difficult, if not impossible. It is up to us drivers to take matters into our own hands and recognize the dangers involved with our own behavior and then act accordingly.

Yes, I own a cell phone (and I like it very much, thank you). I also recently purchased a vehicle equipped with Bluetooth technology, which I use. However, as I read over the sobering statistics of drivers impaired by cell phones and watch other drivers in my city make foolish, potentially dangerous decisions while talking on their phones, I realize that my first priority when I get behind the wheel is to focus on my driving. I am not in my office. My car is not the local coffee klatch. And my “free” time is not meant for me to do anything but dedicate my energy to ensuring I – and my passengers – reach my destination safely.

Anything else is simply off-limits.

What about you? Do you use a cell phone while driving? Does your state have laws regarding cell phone usage while driving? Can you take an oath to go one week without using your phone while driving?


  1. I admit it, I live in NY state which prohibits any use of a cell phone while driving. I talk on the phone on occasion. I try not to do it with my kids in the car because they are all teens, some drive or have a permit and know the rules... and remind me of it. Bad Mom. :(

    1. Alas, Madge, I know where you are coming from. Even with my fancy new Bluetooth technology, it is still unsafe to carry on a conversation via mobile phone while driving. )-: