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Put Down That Phone!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008



Cell Phone Car Crash 1

Originally uploaded by John Rash Photo

Yes. You.

In the Golden State, Vehicle Code (VC) §23123 goes into effect today mandating that cell phone calls are prohibited unless they are placed using a “hands-free” device. (A similar law went into effect in the Evergreen State today as well.)

A lot of buzz about this new law. And on the face of it, it makes sense. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “drivers using phones are four times as likely to get into crashes.” That statistic has been tossed around a lot. But just this morning, I heard the rest of story…

“The main finding of a fourfold increase in injury crash risk was consistent across groups of drivers,” says Dr. Anne McCartt, Institute vice president for research and an author of the study. “Male and female drivers experienced about the same increase in risk from using a phone. So did drivers older and younger than 30 and drivers using hand-held and hands-free phones.”

What did she just say??? No difference between using hand-held and that ridiculous-looking earpiece that makes the wearer resemble the Borg?

The results suggest that banning hand-held phone use won’t necessarily enhance safety if drivers simply switch to hands-free phones. Injury crash risk didn’t differ from one type of reported phone use to the other.
“This isn’t intuitive. You’d think using a hands-free phone would be less distracting, so it wouldn’t increase crash risk as much as using a hand-held phone. But we found that either phone type increased the risk,” McCartt says. “This could be because the so-called hands-free phones that are in common use today aren’t really hands-free. We didn’t have sufficient data to compare the different types of hands-free phones, such as those that are fully voice activated.”

Dr. McCartt was interviewed by Alex Cohen (one of my favourite journalists!) on Day-to-Day today where she clarified things. Apparently talking on the phone causes a “cognitive distraction.” It is the conversation that matters. Not the apparatus.

Cohen asked what the difference is between a phone conversation and carrying on a conversation with a passenger. Great question, I thought. Very weak answer. Dr. McCartt acknowledged that a conversation with a passenger could indeed be distracting but that a passenger could help with navigation or warn of an oncoming road block.

Listening to the radio? Not a problem, according to McCartt, as it is a far more passive activity. No response is expected and the listener is not engaged in the conversation.

She clearly hasn’t been in my car when a biased report on Israel comes over the airwaves ’cause there’s a whole lot of response from this listener.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, 2 July 2008 3:22 pm

    Is there an *unbiased* report on Israel on the airwaves these days?

  2. lizzfilms permalink
    Thursday, 3 July 2008 11:13 pm

    There is a newly released film titled “DISTRACTIONS” that was written and produced by a New York Actor/Director/Producer/Writer – Kevin Craig West of MoBetta Films. This action packed short film is based on the dangers of text messaging while driving, and is complete with a very disturbing ending!! The trailer of this film can be viewed at:
    http://distractionsthemovie.com/trailer.htm

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