Earlier this year there was a report from England claiming that driving while talking on a cell phone was the equivalent of driving while seriously drunk. Recently there was an episode of "Myth Busters" which supported this assertion. Both are the result of "Bad Science".
In both cases, the cell phone driver was using a hand held unit and being asked to do mental gymnastics while driving an obstacle course. This is ridiculous!
First off let me say that I might accept a ban on using a hand-held cell phone while driving. However, the idea that the act of having a NORMAL conversation during NORMAL driving substantially impairs the driver is just silly. Having something in your hand impairs you, be it a phone, or a drink. But having a normal conversation? Get real!
If, during the course of conversation driving conditions become severe the driver always has the option to simply stop talking/listening and concentrate on driving. If the topic of conversation becomes overly complicated, the driver can always find some place to pull over. A drunk driver cannot simply stop being drunk in response to driving conditions.
When I'm driving (using my Bluetooth headset) if something happens, like a deer on or near the road, I simply say "hold on" as I concentrate on what its doing and make sure I don't hit it. If I'm in the city and there is a lot of traffic, I can always say "I'll call you back". Dialing is not a problem either, I just push the button on my headset and say "Call John Doe" or "Call 8185551212" and it dials. Where's the impairment?
As a counter argument, I'd point out that when I'm driving cross country conversing on the phone helps me to stay awake and alert and avoid "Highway Hypnosis".
The English report and Myth Busters are just examples of Bad Science. Both show that you can pretty much "prove" anything if you setup unrealistic test conditions and then try to apply the results to general conditions.
If you want to require people to use hands-free phones when driving that makes sense, but an outright ban on cell phones is silly. If you're going to do that, we need to ban all conversations while driving - even with your passengers!
Are we going to let the control-everyones-lives freaks once again get away with using bad science to take away our freedoms? I hope not!
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