As a motorcycle rider, I am acutely aware of the driving habits of the automobiles around me because my life depends on this awareness far more than most people's. Occasionally I see a car drifting back and forth in its lane, hitting or even crossing the lane marker before correcting and lazing back toward the other side. It is amazing, once I started watching, how often the driver turns out to be talking on a cell phone. It happens so frequently, I call it the "cell phone weave." Such a driver is clearly not focusing 100 percent on driving.
A 1997 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine linked cell phone use by drivers to a quadrupled risk of collision. Subsequent studies show that using a hands-free phone does not mitigate the risks. It is not true that a conversation on a cell phone is no more distracting to a driver than listening to the radio or talking to a passenger. The evidence shows that the person next to you actually helps you to drive by pointing out threats and helping focus your attention. The kinds of conversations held on cell phones, however, tend to be engaging; relating to business planning, logistical arrangements, etc. When you use your cell phone behind the wheel, whether a hands-free model or not, you put yourself and others at risk.
Please, don't talk on the phone and drive. If the phone rings while driving, let it ring. Or pull off the road, then answer it. It's suprising how many serious accidents are caused by people reaching for the phone to answer it. By all means, bring a phone along with you as a safety tool. But please respect the safety of those of us around you who must share the road.
Some of us can remember the days when drinking and driving was tolerated. I predict that 20 years from now, we will look back at this time and shake our heads at how stupid we were, and grieve for those who died or were hurt due to that stupidity. I look forward to the day when there is a "Mothers Against Distracted Drivers" organization. In the meantime, let's all ask our legislators to do something about this problem.
Robert W. Miller
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