Monday, January 12, 2009

Don't go talking cellular...

safety | studio | scared

So the National Safety Council wants to ban the use of cell phones in cars. This is what they said (excerpts below):

The National Safety Council today is calling on motorists to stop using cell phones and messaging devices while driving, and is urging businesses to enact policies prohibiting it and governors and legislators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws banning the behavior.

“Studies show that driving while talking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash,” said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the NSC. “Driving drunk is also dangerous and against the law. When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away. It’s time to take the cell phone away.”

A study from the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis estimates that cell phone use while driving contributes to 6 percent of crashes, which equates to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year. The study also put the annual financial toll of cell phone-related crashes at $43 billion.

Talking on a cell phone may be less distracting than some other activities people may engage in while driving, but the use of cell phones and texting devices is much more pervasive, making it more dangerous overall, Froetscher said. The NSC also points to studies from researchers at the University of Utah that show that hands-free devices do not make cell phone calls while driving safe. Another study demonstrates that talking to passengers, as opposed to talking on a cell phone, actually makes adult drivers safer, because passengers help alert drivers to potential driving risks.

Valid points, but even without searching for the study, I can tell you that factors other than cell phone use contribute to 94 percent of crashes. Let's take a look at some of them, shall we?
  • On Monday morning I was driving south on the 57 and barely avoided a driver in a white car who rapidly swerved around me. This was one of those drivers who like to swerve from the left end of the freeway to the right and back again, but since the freeway was crowded, the driver could only swerve from the right to the middle to the right to the middle. When I last the the driver, his/her car was stuck in traffic and couldn't move. Good.

  • During that same drive I was drinking from a cup of iced tea. Now not only can the act of drinking be distracting, but there is always the danger that the straw will somehow go up my nose, which would be distracting indeed.

  • Oh, and I was playing with my new CD, playing a particular song over and over. The song is "Tombstone," by Midnight Juggernauts, from their "Dystopia" CD. And I was in one of those moods where I was playing a song over and over and over. That can be distracting - you don't want me yelling "is it a freakshow" and plowing into the car in front of me. (And no, I wasn't yelling, even when I was mouthing obscenities at the driver mentioned above.)
I'm sure that you can think of other examples of things that can distract you in the car that the National Safety Council hasn't sought to ban. Maybe they'll ban rain, too.

This clearly sounds like a case of overcaution...

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