We’ve all done it. You’re in the car, the cell phone rings and you pick it up without evening thinking twice. Or, you’re speeding down the highway while simultaneously carrying on a detailed conversation on the phone with your best friend. Either way, it’s dangerous. Talking on your cell phone while driving is considered a distraction. Many accidents are caused by people who look away from the road for a fraction of a second, sometimes to answer a phone call. Because of this, driving while talking on a mobile phone is extremely controversial.
There is plenty of evidence that using a cell phone while driving contributes to car accidents and fatal crashes. Accidents involving careless driving, or someone who was distracted by talking on a cell phone, are being prosecuted as negligence similar to driving while intoxicated. Legislation to restrict mobile phone use had been proposed or enacted in 40 states thus far. Connecticut, New York and New Jersey prohibit talking on hand-held cell phones while driving. According to certain studies, however, current laws banning cell phone use in New York and Connecticut have proven to be infective due to a lack of enforcement. It is far to easy for people to hold the phone down when they see a cop drive by, and subsequently, far too hard for a cop to spot a driver using one.
Interestingly enough, in May of 2007, Washington became the first state to ban text messaging while driving. As of today, as many as 40 countries may restrict or prohibit the use of cell phones while driving.
Cell phones play an integral role in our society — they keep us connected. But the convenience they provide must be weighed against the dangers that they pose. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, careless driving accounted for 6.4 percent of crash fatalities in 2003. This kind of careless driving includes talking, eating, putting on make up and attending to children while operating a motor vehicle. Using mobile phones and other wireless technology (including hands-free devices) are also considered distractions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that motorists use cell phones while driving only during an emergency. They estimate that at any given moment during daylight hours, 8 percent of all drivers are talking on a cell phone. Drivers talking on cell phones are almost twice as likely to get into crashes and cause rear-end collisions. The NHTSA is developing a campaign to help educate motorists on the dangers of cell phone use while driving.
Though it may not necessarily be illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving, you still should try refrain from doing so. Motor vehicle accidents are primarily caused by distractions, second only to drunk driving. These are all preventable accidents. Don’t drink and drive, and while you’re at it, don’t “call and drive” either.
To find out the cell phone restrictions in your area, visit your state’s Department of Transportation website or contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.