Thursday, December 22, 2011

If it's not one thing, it's another

This week for the Thursday blog project, Susanna asked us to write about the following: NTSA says that talking on your cell phone even with a blue tooth, is as dangerous or more dangerous than driving drunk. The recommendation is to ban use of cell phones in car. What do you think about that?

I will admit, I had an adverse reaction when I saw this. I get why texting or e-mailing while driving is bad. Participating in these activities while driving takes your eyes away from where they should be - on the road! However, I don't agree that a ban phone usage while driving would make driving safer.

Since Susanna gave us this topic, I've been reading some articles about the recommendation the NTSA made. I wanted to fully understand what it is they are trying to put into place. As I understand it, this is just a recommendation for state to adopt, and not a mandate. Each state would have to pass individual bills in their legislature to ban the use of cell phone while driving. Furthermore, the ban is only on drivers not using phones that are not connected to the vehicle's internal system (for example On Star or a blue tooth system that is built into the car itself). Also, passengers would not be affected by this ban. They would still be able to talk on their phones while in a moving vehicle. So, if you have a system that allows you to call people through your car's computer than that would be just fine. The recommendation also says it's fine for passengers to use there phones. It is the driver that would be banned from using their phone.

Today, one of my Facebook friends posted this article regarding the psychology of why government should limit our use of cell phones while we drive. The main argument is that it distracts drives from what is going on around them.

This leads me to ask a few questions:

• What makes a conversation conducted via a car's computer less distracting or dangerous than a call placed via an actual cell phone? Especially if your phone has voice controls that allow you to dial your phone without pushing any buttons

• What makes a passenger's conversation less distracting?

• Does this mean we shouldn't talk to our passengers at all while the car in motion?

• What makes talking on the phone more distracting or dangerous than listening to the radio or an audiobook? Or, for that matter taking a sip of a drink we might have in the car with us or taking a bite to eat? (I realize these are not advisable driving habit, but they do happen nonetheless.

I'd like to point out, I am rarely on the phone while I drive so I'm not taking this position because I'm afraid of missing precious talk time. It's really a rare occasion that I'm talking and driving at the same time. Or, for that matter initiate a random call while driving. After the LSAT in June, I did call two different people on my way home. The testing center was an hour away from my home and I was so exhausted that I needed to talk to someone in order to be alert. It's funny to say, but it's true. Most of the time if I do make a call while driving, it's most likely because I'm letting someone know I'm running late and will be there as soon as I can. Otherwise, like I said, I don't really call anyone just to talk, and if someone calls me while I'm driving chances are I will most likely miss since I keep the ringer on vibrate most of the time and my phone either in my purse or on the passenger seat.

I guess my greatest objection to this recommendation is the fact that it fails recognize there are other things in vehicles that can cause drivers to get into accidents. I actually know someone who got into an accident while changing the radio station while they were moving. I don't have the statistics on it how often this happen, but I believe it is safe to say they were one of many that has happened too.

I don't think that people need to be on their phones the whole time they are driving and there is a moderation factor that comes into play as well. However, I also don't think that eliminating phone usage all together will make the roads significantly safer.

Lastly, I'll say this... I was talking about this with a someone I know whose son is a police officer. This individual works in an area where you are required to use a hands free device if you are talking on your phone while driving. The individual I spoke with said, their son never pulls anyone over for the sole purpose of busting them on that offense. They'll only make that citation if they are pulling a driver over for another reason. This makes me wonder if and when this recommendation is adopted by states how strongly it will be enforced.

Now that I have shared my thoughts on the NTSA's recommendation to ban phone usage while driving a car, please take a moment to read what my fellow bloggers have to say about the topic:

Mom of Many (Susanna)

Momarock (Sara)

Merryland Girl (Melissa)

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