Put those phones away!

A study in 2007 performed at Clemson University found that drivers talking on the phone demonstrated the ability to keep the car within the lines, but when the study participants were asked to send a text message in the simulator, results showed they were 10% more likely to cross into another lane.  Now that might not really seem like much, but think about driving down Interstate 40, and just how many cars you’re driving with.  The results of this study show that out of every ten cars you see, at least one of them is going to veer outside of their own lane.  Let’s hope it’s not the one driving right beside you.  Scary, right?  So what has our wonderful town of Chapel Hill decided to do about this terrifying habit that many of us drivers have?  They’ve decided to outlaw all cell phone use while driving.

Hopefully we’ve all heard about this new cell phone ban which will go into effect June 1, 2012.  In my opinion, there are and should be a lot of mixed feelings about this.  Everyone knows that distracted drivers are more likely to have an accident.  Here are some facts:  In 2010, there were more than 3,000 deaths in “distraction-related accidents.”  (For this statistic, distraction-related refers to eating, drinking, applying make-up etc, not just cell phone distractions.)  In 2009, 5,474 people died because of distraction-related accidents, and 18% of this was due to a cell phone. That’s almost 1,000 people dead because someone was too busy using their cell phone to realize that they were supposed to be paying attention to the road.  And although the under 20 age group has the highest percentage of distracted drivers (20%), it’s not just the teenagers who contribute to these numbers.  The 30 to 39 year old age group had “the highest percentage of cell phone use in fatal crashes.”  So it’s absolutely clear that this cell phone ban is moving us in the right direction.  But have they taken it too far?  This ban doesn’t just outlaw talking on the phone and texting, it even makes using a hands free device illegal.

Despite the fact that a hands free device allows you the ability to be looking straight ahead with both hands on the wheel, Bluetooths are still a part of the ban.  In my opinion, this is taking things one step too far.  They might as well outlaw listening to the radio, as I believe it provides the same amount of distraction, if not more.  When you’re listening to the radio you still have to look down and see what station you’re on, and when you want to change the station, you have to remove your hand from the wheel and press the appropriate button, oftentimes looking at the radio, not the road.  That seems to be just as distracting as a Bluetooth, right?  So despite the good intentions of this ban, many people feel that we might be giving up a little more than we bargained for in trying to make the roads safer.

And what about those of us who use our phones for GPS when we’re trying to get somewhere new?  Set your destination before you start moving and don’t mess with your phone until you get where you’re going.  And if you’re searching for a friend’s house but don’t remember the street name, pull over before you call to ask!  Because the only allowance the ban gives is for calls to a parent, legal guardian, spouse, or child.  But don’t forget the thing that’s going to save most of us a $25 fine: you have to be pulled over for another infraction before you can be cited for cell phone use.  So if you’re not speeding and not driving like an idiot, you just might get away with that quick call to your friend about the party tomorrow night.  But remember, it’s still illegal and it’s still a safety hazard, so drive carefully!








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