As of October 2006, over 224 million people use cell phones in the United States. Our reliance on cell phones has increased so much that many of us use cell phones while driving, even in the foggiest weather or in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
There are two dangers connected with driving and using a cell phone. First, drivers must take their eyes off the road while dialing. Second, people get so into their conversation, they lose concentration on driving and may start talking with their hands and lose hold of the wheel.
People who use wireless phones while driving have a 34 percent higher risk of a collision than those who do not. Perhaps that is why California will join Connecticut, the District of Colombia, New Jersey, New York and some local jurisdictions in not allowing the use of handheld phones while driving.
A new law will take effect July 1, 2008, that will require that drivers us an earpiece or speaker to use their mobile phones while on the road. Motorists could face a fine or $20 for a first offense of using a handheld phone while driving and $50 for each following offense.
We at The Prospector believe that the new law is a good idea. It will help California drivers pay attention to what is really important on the road instead of a phone conversation. Some people even try to type out a text message while they are driving. Some try to talk on a phone while changing the radio station and steering the wheel with their knees. It is surprising how multitasked everyone tries to be when they are supposed to be concentrating on driving.
This new law is really only the beginning, however. It is not just phones that distract California drivers. The top driving distraction is using a CD/cassette player or radio. Then children, pets, eating, drinking, smoking, cell phones and personal grooming are ranked as top distractions. Obviously, more than cell phones distract drivers.
While driving, some people groom themselves, even flossing their teeth or painting their fingernails. Ladies will dig in their oversized purse to find their eyelash curler or mascara. Men will sometimes check the stocks or sports page in the newspaper-all while driving.
Other drivers have yet to learn how to hold a conversation with a passenger without looking him or her directly in the eyes. With head turned to the left or over the shoulder, the driver continues to speed down the road, believing perhaps that the car is guided by some mystical force.
Use your eyes, Luke, not the force!
Then of course, there are parent drivers, distracted by crying children and sibling rivalries in the backseat, screaming while barreling down the road, accelerating with their ever-growing rage. While we can sympathize with their lot, we would prefer that they pull over to deal with unruly children.
But food and music seem to be the main culprit among college-aged drivers. Always on the go, college students do a lot of their eating while driving. And of course, music is essential. Unfortunately, trying to change that CD while driving and spilling Taco Bell munchies down your shirt can be a bit distracting.
The deadliest day of the week to drive is on a Saturday. And the deadliest time to drive is between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. The most dangerous beverage to drink while driving is coffee, and the most dangerous food is tacos.
So, if you’re driving on a Saturday evening while drinking coffee, eating tacos and on a cell phone, then consider yourself a goner.