For some of us, to call our relationship with technology and mobile devices an "addiction" would be a serious understatement. Having grown so used to cell phones being around, many of us never let them leave our sides and can never find the time to totally disconnect. The recent need to be always-connected has changed our lives – so much so that we put our own lives and the lives of others at risk over something as small as a text message, email or call.
Cell phone use while behind the wheel is nothing new. I always remember my mother ripping at the Velcro that held her car phone in place almost as soon as she hit the seat when she was driving anywhere throughout my childhood. Back then, I never gave it second thought. She was always a great driver and never seemed to put anyone in harm's way, with or without a cell phone attached to her head.
Now that phones are smaller, lighter and more capable, though, the problems have become a slightly more serious. Over the last several years, text messaging has become one of the most popular ways for young adults and teens to communicate. And since being on time and keeping up with your closest of friends and family are both ever important, a large number of the population has begun multitasking behind the wheel.
Here recently, despite laws that have been put in place to fight distracted driving, problems with texting while driving have only gotten worse. Not only have more people started tapping out messages while steering a half ton hunk of steel, but they have started to do so more discretely by dropping the phone around waist level, which is worse than before. This means the eyes have to travel a further distance from the road, thus hindering reaction time and the ability to drive using peripheral visions (as if that isn't already dangerous enough).
Likely due to the lack of enforcement and effectiveness, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has proposed things be taken a bit more seriously and to the next level. "If the National Transportation Safety Board has its way, cellphone use of all kinds behind the wheel — from texting down to talking hands-free with a headset — will be illegal in all 50 of these United States," says Mashable's Chris Taylor. It wasn't an easy decision to make, suggests NTSB chairman, Deborah A. P. Hersman, calling it a "difficult recommendation, but the right recommendation." And her five-member board agrees.
Individual states do reserve the right to make their own driving laws; some states already have texting bans for drivers and some also have bans on cell phone use without a hands-free device, while others have no ban at all. Whether states would be willing to hear the NTSB out and tighten the reigns remains to be seen. However, "recommendations from Washington’s top traffic safety body are likely to carry a lot of weight," notes Taylor.
So I'm curious how you guys and gals stand on this. Is NTSB's recommendation to completely ban all cell phone use while behind the wheel – including hands-free – the right one? Or is it taking it too far?
To be honest, I'm a bit torn, for several reasons. One, I do not feel as if talking on a phone (hands-free) causes me to be any more distracted than if I were talking to someone in the passenger seat, and they obviously aren't going to ban passengers. Two, when I have to drive long distances or late at night and begin to feel a bit tired, I give someone a call. A certain friend of mine and I have always done this for as long as I can remember. As bad as that may seem or be, it has always worked well for me and it perks me up almost instantly.
On the other hand, I constantly see drivers who are on the phone swerving all over the place or driving a significant speed under the speed limit. And I see people blowing my doors off on the highway with their arms propped on the steering wheel, with their face buried in a phone and their fingers tapping away.
If I had to take a stance, I suppose I would be in favor of the ban. Hersman states, "No call, no text, no update is worth a human life," and I'm forced to agree. Despite my preferences or even my needs for at least some cell phone use in the car, I trust myself more than others. And it's the other people I'm worried about. I may be able to drive just fine while holding a conversation with someone on the other end, but that doesn't mean everyone else is capable of keeping it between the lines while on call. Let's face it, the more you're doing while steering around a speeding hunk of metal, the worse the odds are for all of us.
Tell me, readers. Do you use your cell phone while you're driving? Do you feel you are perfectly capable of multitasking behind the wheel? What about others? Are NTSB's recommendations just right? Or are they a bit extreme?
Image via ScienceDaily