Dialing for Disaster

Your daughter has a flat. She calls you to come help her. It's dark and you're lost somewhere not too pleasant. You call for directions. You want to wish your son a happy birthday, but he's gone camping with friends. You can't reach him because he turned off his phone so he could have a bit of peace and quiet. Well, two out of three isn't bad.

Cellular phones are perfect for emergencies and for staying in touch whenever and wherever we need to be in touch. But there is growing evidence that phones and driving don't mix. With roads more crowded than ever and drivers seemingly more aggressive by the day, any distraction can lead to an accident, and cellular phones definitely are a distraction.

Consider also that young drivers (16-18) are among the least safe drivers on our roads. The crash rate for 16-year-old drivers is 5 times higher than for over-25 drivers! Parents naturally want their youngsters to have cellular phones to use in case of emergencies, but using cellular phones while driving is an added danger for these inexperienced drivers—and for the rest of us who are out on the roads with them.

Americans will continue to use phones in cars, just as we play our stereos, drink our breakfast coffee, adjust our appearance, dictate into recorders, shout at the kids in the back seat, and daydream about vacations and winning the lottery. We spend a lot of time in our cars, and we have begun to treat them as the second homes they have become. We will continue to use our phones, but a few common-sense safety rules maybe can save our lives.

  • If traffic is heavy, turn off your phone.
  • Pull off the road before phoning.
  • Try to use a hands-free type of phone.
  • Save stressful, intense calls for home or office.
  • Monitor phone use by your young driver.
  • If you must phone while driving, do so only when you can easily respond to traffic conditions.

The best advice about phoning and driving probably is the simplest: USE YOUR HEAD before you use your phone.

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