Guilty. I am definitely guilty. I’ve done it before, I might do it again. And I know lots of other people that do it too.
I’ve used my cell phone in the car while driving. I’ve used it to talk, and I’ve used it to text. More than once. And I think I’m incredibly lucky not to have gotten killed (or killed someone else) by doing so. In the last two or three months, I’ve made a definite effort toward not using my phone in the car unless I’m parked somewhere. I’ve not stopped entirely, but I’ve reduced it considerably. And I think I”m ready to give it up entirely, for my own safety and the safety of others on the road.
Distracted driving is distracted driving. Talking on a cell phone, even hands-free, is distracting. You are concentrating on the conversation, not the road. You may think you’re concentrating on the road, the drivers around you, and that deer jumping across the lane in front of you, but the truth is, your brain puts the conversation first, which means the majority of your attention is there. You’re driving a 3- 4- or 5-thousand-pound vehicle, a deadly weapon, and getting distracted by a phone call. Any rational person can think this through, obviously, but how many of us, when that phone rings, can’t help but reach over and grab that phone and say hello?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently released studies that indicate that hands-free is no less dangerous than holding the phone up to your ear. Plenty of stories have been in the news lately about cell phone accidents involving cars, commuter trains, buses, and even people walking down the sidewalk.
Harvard psychiatry professor John Hatey, in his research on attention, posits that the use of electronic devices like cell phones and MP3 players gives you a “dopamine squirt,” giving you a sense of well-being and connectedness that is addictive, almost drug-like. No wonder we reach for that phone when it rings, even when it isn’t the right time to do so!
I hate to think that we need to legislate ourselves out of this, but if we can’t be responsible enough to put that thing away, then maybe that will end up being the only answer.
*Props to anyone who got the title reference to Star Wars.