Before cell phones existed, people had to either stop their cars at the nearest pay phone or wait until they reached their destination to call someone. Over the last twenty years, cell phones have gone from being a luxury few could afford, to a that it cannot be conducted after the ubiquitous appendage of the human body. It seems that everyone has one, and that everyone suddenly has to be in constant communication with someone else via the device, almost as if his or her life depended upon the vital communication in which they are engaged. Older adults tend to talk into their phones, while younger generations have become adept at typing text messages. And while the attraction of being in constant contact with friends and family is understandable, there is definitely a time and place where cell phones should and should not be used. The most obvious place where one should not be used is when the communicator is responsible for the safe operation of a two thousand piece of machinery as it whizzes down the highway past pedestrians, bicyclists, pets, and other vehicles.
The reason that drunk driving is so dangerous is because it impairs the driver’s ability to properly react to driving conditions by slowing down their reaction time, blurring their vision, and changing their depth perception. Cell phone usage and text messaging impairs the driver’s ability to react by distracting them from what’s going on in the driving environment. According to Professor Strayor’s study, drivers who are distracted by cell phones “are more likely to miss critical traffic signals (traffic lights, a vehicle braking in front of the driver, etc.), slower to respond to the signals that they do detect, and more likely to be involved in rear-end collisions when they are conversing on a cell phone . In addition, even when participants direct their gaze at objects in the driving environment, they often fail to “see” them when they are talking on a cell phone because attention has been directed away from the external environment. . .” And text messaging is even more distracting than talking, as it requires more concentration. According to a recent study conducted by the American Automobile Association, nearly 46% of teens text while driving. And when you combine this with the relative inexperience of teen drivers and the fact that many of them tend to drive more recklessly than older drivers, you have a recipe for disaster. Adults can be equally inattentive while driving and using a cell phone at the same time. This point was tragically illustrated recently in this very city when a woman who was driving while talking on her cell phone struck and killed a girl who was riding her bike home from school.