Archive for Sunday, May 21, 2006

Phone hazard

May 21, 2006


To the editor:

It's what we call a near miss. A car next to me on 23rd Street swerved sharply to the right, into my lane. I braked and honked, and the driver swerved back just in time. He waved, quite apologetically. Either he hadn't known I was there, or he hadn't known he had swerved.

No wonder! His stereo was turned up so loud that, half a block later when we stopped side-by-side at a light, my car was shaking. In the middle of all that sound, he had been carrying on a lively cell phone conversation, gesturing with his free hand (the one not holding the phone) and bouncing around his seat in time to the music.

I can't entirely blame his lousy driving on the cell phone. Only about half or two-thirds. But that half or two-thirds was enough to make this guy lethal behind the wheel.

When we talk about behind-the-wheel cell use, don't think of a quick, "Honey, I'm ten minutes out, and do you still need a half-gallon of skim?" Think instead of someone whose attention is Elsewhere, whose intense conversation overpowers the chore of driving.

Most traffic accidents happen within five miles of home - a typical trip for a Lawrence driver. Let's get rid of cell phone use while driving in Lawrence. Driving needs one's full attention.

John Rosen,



mom_of_three 12 years, 1 month ago

Unfortunately, you can't blame the inattenative driving solely on cell phone use. Yesterday, we were following somone down 31st street, and they were in a lively, animated conversation with a passenger.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 1 month ago

Don't cell phones actually contribute to highway safety?

Cell phones can be a valuable tool for highway safety. They enable you to rapidly report collisions, bad driving and other problem situations. However, the value lies in having the phone available in the car, not in having the phone turned on. The safety feature comes from the ability to make an outgoing call in an emergency. When reporting an emergency situation, it's best to pull over so that your vehicle isn't posing a risk to others and so that you can adequately report the details and answer any questions. This is much more difficult to do while navigating a vehicle through traffic. When using the phone for non-emergency situations - to report that you're running late, for example - it's often possible to pull over briefly or to make the call when stopped at a traffic light. But it's best to let a passenger make the call, so you can concentrate on driving.

Is using a cell phone more dangerous than other distractions such as adjusting the radio, eating a snack or other things drivers do?

The driver's first responsibility is the safe operation of the vehicle. A driver may be charged if erratic driving or a collision results from inattention, regardless of what else may be going on. Research indicates that cellular phones do create an extra risk. The extra risk results from the distraction of thinking about the conversation, not only the distraction of physically handling or looking at the device. Research also suggests that stressful, emotional or important conversations are even more distracting.

Are hands-free devices safer?

Hands-free phones do free you from having to physically operate the phone, but they don't reduce your need to think about the conversation, which is also distracting. Research suggests that there is an increased risk of collision while using a cellular phone, even when it is in hands-free mode. It's still better to pull over, make your call and then resume driving when the call is finished.

When using the phone in hands-free mode, you should prepare the phone and all equipment before your trip begins. Trying to find components, putting on a headset or changing the settings on the phone while driving increase the danger.

If I use a cellular phone, what can I do to become a safer driver? It's simple: don't use a cellular phone while driving. If a call is important enough, it deserves your full attention!

To make or receive calls:

Pull over and stop; Allow a passenger to operate the phone; Use voice mail and respond to the call at a safer time; or Let someone else drive, freeing you up to make or receive calls.

Isn't two hands on the wheel better than one in stressed situations?

BDitty 12 years, 1 month ago

Here we go again. Blame cell phones! Blame cell phones! I've had enough of this babble. It's not the phone, or the music, or the cigarettes, or the conversations with others in the car... IT"S THE DRIVER!!! I know people who have been driven for 10+ years and have never been in an accident. However, I also know people how have been driving for less than 5 and have been in multiple accidents. What's the difference between the two... one is capable of handling the responsibility of driving and the other is not. You want to make the streets safer, then better educate teens on how to drive safer. I know we already have driver's ed but it isn't mandatory and in all honesty, it is severly inept. The current driver's ed system focus's more on how to parallel park or what road signs mean than it does vehicle safety. A complete overhaul of the system is needed. What else is needed is the larger issue... every new driver needs to be educated. By this I mean MANDATORY driver's ed for all person's before they are allowed to either graduate high school or receive a driver's liscense.
But then again, the "leaders" of Lawrence believe the answer to all this cities problems is to just outright ban things...cigarettes, load music, cell phones, trafficways- should i keep going? Or maybe we should just follow merrill's idea and pull over everytime there is a distraction. in fact the city should redo our entire road system and install pull over lanes. That way everytime a driver wants to speak to someone (be it a passenger or person calling them) they will have someplace "safe" to do so. Let's be realistic, not only is a ban on cell phones unenforceble (it's not like seatbelts or speeding- much harder to prove) but it is unnecessary. Problems are better solved through education, not ridiculous ordinances.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.