By Larry Carley July 2009
NHTSA says talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous. Call the Safety Police!
A report in the New York Times says the NHTSA has research that shows cell phone usage distracts drivers from paying attention, creating a potential safety hazard that can increase the risk of having an accident. Yet NHTSA withheld this information from Congress for fear it would anger the politicians.
Since when do politicians pay any attention whatsoever to facts? Once they have a preconceived notion about a topic, or have taken a political position (mainly to get themselves re-elected), nothing can change their mind, except perhaps a large enough campaign contribution.
The NHTSA findings were obtained by the Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen through Freedom of Information requests, according to the newspaper report. The key findings were:
* Cell phone usage by drivers increased 50 percent, from 4 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2002.
Personally, I think the NHTSA data is inaccurate and out-of-date. From my own personal observations while driving, Iíd say cell phone usage is more like half of all drivers, and about 90% of all women drivers.
* Driver distraction contributes to about 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes.
This number is probably accurate. On the other hand, if they didnít have a cell phone in their hand, they wouldnít be able to call 911 to report the accident. That drastically reduces the response time of rescue workers and probably saves lives.
* Cell phone use is growing as a distraction while driving.
True, but there are a lot of other things that cause distractions while driving:
Billboards, signs and advertising clutter along the road , eating while driving, smoking while driving, reading while driving, applying makeup while driving, playing with the radio while driving, playing with or reading the GPS navigation system while driving, listening to controversial Talk Radio personalities while driving, watching out for speed traps, watching out for Red Light cameras, screaming children or crying babies in the back seat, pets jumping around inside the car, back seat drivers giving directions and driving instructions, groceries falling off the seat when braking, etc., etc., etc.
Part of being a competent driver is learning how to keep one eye on the road while multi-tasking and tuning in whatís important and tuning out what is not.
* The NHTSA recommends that drivers not use their cell phones while driving except in an emergency.
Money-hungry municipalities will take this as a prompt to pass laws forbidding the use of cell phones while driving so they can rake in more revenue from the motoring public. Talking on a cell phone while driving will be added to the list of crimes such as speeding and turning right on a red light without coming to a full stop.
Personally, I avoid talking on a cell phone while driving. Why? Because itís annoying and distracting in heavy traffic. It is not a problem, however, when driving on the open highway or when there is little traffic on the road.
I donít think cops should be pulling people over and writing tickets for using a cell phone while driving.
A good driver will know when it is safe to talk on a cell phone while driving and when it is not. A bad driver wonít. Making it illegal wonít change anything except the revenue stream for local governments.