It’s taken too long, but it’s great nonetheless: The National Safety Council has started a campaign to outlaw all use of cellphones while driving, and to make it just as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving. See, “A Problem of the Brain, Not the Hands: Group Urges Phone Ban for Drivers” (New York Times, Jan. 12, 2009)
As the January 12th NSC news release states:
- “The National Safety Council today is calling on motorists to stop using cell phones and messaging devices while driving, and is urging businesses to enact policies prohibiting it and governors and legislators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws banning the behavior.”
- “ ‘Studies show that driving while talking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash,’ said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the NSC.
- “A study from the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimates that cell phone use while driving contributes to 6 percent of crashes, which equates to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries and 2,600 deaths each year. The study also put the annual financial toll of cell phone-related crashes at $43 billion.”
A fact sheet, data resources and other information concerning cell phone use while driving are available on the NSC website, at distracteddriving.nsc.org.
NSC argues that DWP (like texting while driving) is just as dangerous as DUI, and is far riskier than talking with a passenger or many other distracting behaviors. It also makes it clear that hands-free phoning is not safe:
“When you’re on a call, even if both hands are on the wheel, your head is in the call, and not on your driving,” [NSC CEO Janet] Froetscher said. “Unlike the passenger sitting next to you, the person on the other end of the call is oblivious to your driving conditions. The passenger provides another pair of eyes on the road.”
Since we’ve been harping on this subject for almost a decade, none of this information is new to the f/k/a Gang — and, it has been available to all the politicians who’ve passed phony hands-free cellphone laws over the past decade. We’ve collected much of our own information and argument in the post “California’s make-believe cell phone safety law” (June 30, 2008).
- Last September, we stated our hope that DWP would get an advocate as effective as RID has been against drunk driving; NSC could certainly more than fill that role (with its reputation and resources), even though having a spokesperson with the drive and personal commitment like that of RID’s Doris Aiken would also help a lot.
- As the NYT article points out: “The studies show that cellphone conversations are highly distracting compared with other speaking and listening activities in the car. One might think that listening to talk radio or an audio book would degrade driving skill; it does not.”
- The business-multitasking drivers who insist they must DWP, should notice this paragraph in the NSC news release:
“A significant amount of vehicular cell phone use is done on the job. Many businesses have already acknowledged the injuries and costs associated with this behavior by adopting policies that ban cell phone use by employees on the roads. Among NSC member businesses that responded to a survey, 45 percent said they have company policies prohibiting on-road cell phone use. Of those, 85 percent said the policies make no difference in business productivity.”
NSC has taken up a fight that will be long and hard. Too many self-entitled Americans are apathetic about the risks they cause for other drivers and themselves. Too many companies make money by selling cellphone devices and service. Too many politicians lack the courage to do the right thing. Let’s hope that the NSC education activities will, indeed, at least help to make DWP socially unacceptable. Weeach need to pledge not to phone while driving, not to let our minor children do so, and to insist as passengers that our drivers do the same.
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