Cellular Phones on the Road

Cellular phones are one of the most widely and most popular forms of communication today. Cell phones are so easily accessible and portable that it only makes sense that cell phones and automobiles will sometimes go together. Cell phones are a cause of some of the accidents we see today, but does this mean we should ban the use of them all together or just change the way we go about using them?
An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997, reported the results of a study of 699 drivers in Canada. All were phone-using drivers who had been involved in a collision. The study concluded, Collision risk is four times greater if you use a phone while driving (Burk). In another study conducted by Accident Analysis and Prevention Journal in 1998, found that if a driver is in an accident while using a wireless phone, the chances are nine times greater that it will be a fatal accident.

There is a lot of controversy going on right now and so far New York is the only one state that has outlawed the use of cellular phones while driving. Many other states are in the process of trying to get this new law passed. As for Missouri, the legislation is still in committee and we wont know any more until the next time they meet to discuss this, in January 2002. Talking on a cell phone, in my opinion, while driving is no more dangerous that lighting a cigarette, operating the radio or dealing with children and I dont think there is much chance of getting all of these things outlawed.

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A 1996 study be the Japanese National Policy Agency found that many phone-related crashes occurred while the driver was responding to a call, which included being startled or distracted by the ringing, dropping the phone or tuning to pick it up (Burk). If people would just be smarter about how they use their cellular phones by doing things such as, not responding to a call while in a trying traffic situation, setting the phone on a lower ringing volume while in their vehicle, etc.
Many people who use wireless phones while they drive argue that the benefits of their phones (flexibility and convenience) outweigh any potential risks (Radelmeier 27). Almost all of the people, who responded to a survey given by Motorola, argue that wireless phones increase their flexibility. These benefits present a strong obstacle to change, since many drivers value the convenience of talking while driving.

An obstacle to legislative change would also be the fact that there is not enough evidence concerning wireless phone use and collisions. There are plenty of speculations and signs that would point to phone use while driving being the cause, but without proof it is hard to get a law such as this passed. However, even without an abundance of hard facts, legislators have found many people willing to testify as witnesses or victims of accidents caused by phone-distracted drivers. Even with these peoples testimonies, the number of content phone-using drivers and the influence of phone manufacturers and service providers are too great to persuade the legislation, in most states, to take action at this time.
The results of several online polls and surveys show that many people think talking while driving is no more or less distracting than any other activity, including other
things such as a conversation with a passenger. However, activities such as eating, reading or talking with a passenger are all distracting and potentially dangerous behaviors, but these do not compare with using a wireless phone while driving. Unlike a fellow passenger, the person on the other end of the line is not able to determine when a driver might need to interrupt a conversation and concentrate on driving. Only through awareness of the unique risks associated with talking on the phone while driving will drivers adjust their wireless phone use (Radelmeier 27).

So why not meet in the middle somewhere and compromise, by doing something such as making it illegal to talk on a cellular phone while driving unless it a hands-free unit? Hands-free devices make it so that you have full use of your hands and you would not have to be digging for your phone every time it rings. Hands-free devices are just as risky as hand-held phones. Hands-free devices involved approximately the same risk as hand-held mobile phones. A 1999 study conducted by the Transportation Human Factors Journal, stated that the single most risky behavior is the conversation itself (Burk).

The use of cellular phones in motor vehicles is associated with a quadrupling of the risk of a collision during the brief period of a call. Decisions about regulation of such telephones however, need to take into consideration the benefits of the technology and the role of individual responsibility. The most immediate way to reduce the risk associated with wireless phone use while driving is changing our individual behavior. By driving defensively, using phones responsibly and encouraging others to do the same, the number of drivers who are putting themselves and others at risk will decrease. Cell
phones are a cause of some of the accidents we see today, but does this mean we should ban the use of them all together, or just change the way we go about using them?