Advocacy Group Pushes for Complete Ban on Cell Phones in Cars

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Talking on a hand-held phone is already illegal in six states and numerous cities and counties, but hands-free systems like Bluetooth allow drivers to keep their in-car conversations going. The problem is that a mounting body of research shows that hands-free devices are no different than hand-held devices. The problem is not the driver taking one hand off the wheel, but rather his or her brain forming mental images that have nothing to do with the road.

How dangerous is driving and talking? According to research, it’s as dangerous as driving while legally drunk. Accident statistics, real-world studies and simulated experiments all say that a driver is four times as likely to get in an accident while on the phone — the same as a driver who’s drank more than the legal limit.

The problem is not the conversation (talking to a passenger can actually make you more alert). It’s that your brain tries to supplement the conversation with mental images, which leaves the eyes unfocused on the road and staring straight ahead.

Here’s the problem with the movement: Even if state or local governments wanted to ban all cell phone use, how could they enforce it? Furthermore, now that we’re used to chatting while driving, how do safety advocates plan to convince Americans of the merits of what would surely be a highly unpopular measure? Let us know in the comments if you’d support a complete cell phone ban in cars.

A Problem of the Brain, Not the Hands: Group Urges Phone Ban for Drivers (New York Times)

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