By Michael French
We’ve all been behind a car that suddenly slows down, takes forever to move when the light turns green, turns suddenly without signaling, swerves in and out of lanes, doesn’t keep a steady speed, or almost hits us when we’re stopped at a light. In the past the drivers of these cars would be suspected of being intoxicated. Now, most likely, the drivers of these cars are using a cell phone. Even worse, they could be using a cell phone and be intoxicated!
Three people at my office stormed into to work the other day frustrated with stories of almost being in an auto accident because of drivers who were distracted from using their cell phone. They are not alone. Not much is being done about this ever increasingly dangerous trend. It’s an epidemic. It’s expensive, costing all of us in higher insurance premiums. It’s deadly. At least 10,000 deaths per year are directly attributed to accidents caused by drivers using their cell phones.
Statistics establishing the risks of DWD (driving while dialing and/or distracted) were found via studies by insurance companies. It appears, however, that the mighty insurance companies have made no demands to make “Hands Free” cell phone use mandatory or forbid texting while driving. It’s amazing that insurance companies, with all their lobbying at both the national and state levels, aren’t screaming for the right to deny or reduce auto insurance coverage if the driver can be found guilty of using a phone at the time of an accident.
Might the reason for that be the insurance companies are heavily invested in the cell phone industry? Is it the same old profit without principle syndrome so pervasive in today’s business climate? It appears the insurance companies’ stock portfolios burgeoned by their investments in the exploding cell phone industry outweighs the losses they incur paying for the accidents caused by distracted, inconsiderate and irresponsible drivers.
Is there any other reason for them not to insist our state and federal lawmakers legislate cell phone use while driving?
When you don’t wear your seat belt, the only person at risk is yourself. Being distracted by using a cell phone, a driver can injure or kill several people! You are threatened with decreased or no coverage should you be in an accident without your seat belt fastened. Nationwide there are laws demanding that you and your passengers wear one or be fined. No such federal laws regulate cell phone use while driving, and only a handful of states have passed laws limiting how drivers can use them.
It’s not as if the driving public is ignorant to the dangers. Over 70% of drivers say they use cell phones when driving. Ironically, of the drivers surveyed, more than 80% said they believed using a cell phone while driving is very dangerous and they support legislation limiting their use. The message is not being missed.
There’s just no national, effective deterrent. It’s been proven even the supposed safer “hands free” cell phone use severely inhibits the driver’s concentration. They are four times as likely to cause an accident.
Distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held OR hands free) extends a driver’s reaction time as much as a blood alcohol content of .08 percent. Along with other distractions: smoking, drinking, putting on makeup, etc., using a cell phone only heightens the danger quotient. We don’t need drivers whose concentration is further compromised. The situation is out of control. A few years ago, a Boca Raton man, while preoccupied with his cell phone conversation, sped through a red light, slammed into a car, killing six people. The EMS needed over twenty body bags to put the shattered bodies in. The human cost is immense and this is not an isolated story.
How can we make our roadways safer and drivers more responsible? Start with yourself. Set the example! Let people know you do not use the phone while driving! You’ll get some extra peace and quiet. You’ll all survive. Pull over if you must make or take a call. Florida is one of the few states with no cell phone regulation. No surprise there. Write to your state and local representatives demanding legislation that will help make the roads safer for not only you, but the people you love!
Michael French, is Agenda’s Home from Home columnist. Contact Michael at email@example.com