There has been a lot of media coverage – and debate – over distractions in the car. In case you’ve missed it, here’s the short version: the National Traffic Safety Board issued a recommendation that states outlaw non-emergency phone calls and texting by all drivers. It would apply to hands-free as well as hand-held devices, but not devices installed in the vehicle by the manufacturer.
A recommendation does not force states to change their laws, but it does carry weight when looking at the issue. Today, 35 state ban texting and driving, 30 states ban cell-phone use by newly licensed drivers and 10 ban all use of hand-held cell phones. Additionally, there are city laws throughout the country that ban texting and/or use of cell phones behind the wheel.
Over the past couple of days I’ve seen arguments for and against that run the gamut…hands-free is no more dangerous than listening to the radio, why can’t the government stay out of my car, I work out of my car and without a phone, I’m out of business, etc., etc.
We’ve known for some time, through studies and looking at crash numbers, cell phones do contribute to crashes. Texting is a higher risk (up to 23 times) than talking (four times), but even with all the media coverage, people are not receiving the message, they don’t believe it or they don’t believe it applies to their driving. In fact, more than half of people who admit to texting or emailing while driving say the habit does not affect their driving.
The denial of need reminds me of the arguments when seat belt laws were first passed. That was in the early 80’s. Some of us grumbled a bit, but we complied and saw unrestrained crash deaths decrease. Now we can’t imagine getting into a car and not using a seat belt. Major changes require a shift in culture, but it can happen and if it prevents injuries and deaths, then I’m all for it.
How about you? If you answer no, tell us why.