Monday, October 05, 2009

Get off the phone!!

Jim Kenzie is a columnist for The Toronto Star and a tv personality who works the automotive beat.

He's a smart guy and I often agree with his points of view.

Perhaps that's a redundant statement. :P

Anyhow, his latest article tackles the recent legislation effectively banning the use of cell phones while driving.

Or, rather, the use of hand-held cell phones.

Note the problem here?

See, while the legislation is no doubt a step in the right direction (though Jim seems to think it actually makes matters worse if people think it endorses the hands-free option), it doesn't quite address the issue. The act of holding a cell phone to one's head is no doubt dangerous. I have seen drivers nearly collide with me and/or other objects because they had limited their field of vision. The ban will help curb this occurence. But, see, this approach has cellphone apologists using the same old ridiculous argument that radios and the like are just as distracting. I mean, they're all items that require physical dexterity and keep our hands off the wheel, right?


You would have to be a complete moron not to agree that the real danger of cell phones is not the physical presence of the item but the mental distraction they cause.

And no, you putz, a phone conversation is not at all the same as listening to the radio.

See, listening to the radio is passive. Sometimes you don't even notice the song playing - it's ambience. But when you're on the phone, engaged in a conversation, it's a completely different use of the mind and draw on your attention. Do I have a science degree? No, but what I do have is half a brain. It's as obvious as obvious can be that when you are participating in a phone conversation, you "retreat" mentally, even if just a little. There's no way that you are as aware of your environment. That's a dangerous frame of mind when operating a vehicle in traffic.

If you haven't seen it yourself, then you either don't drive enough or your lack of perception skills has me thinking - cell phone or no - you already shouldn't be driving. I've been in cars with people who go absolutely retarded once they pick up the phone. They slow down, miss exits, lose track of cars around them, or even become panicked and edgy.

A hands-free device will not cure this. Drivers will still be distracted as they retreat psychologically in order to converse intelligently. Yes, even the "good" drivers.

I have long refused to talk to friends on the phone if I know they are driving. The fact they they may be using a hands-free device will not change that.

The legislation does not ban hands-free communication because, as I understand it, it would be difficult if not impossible for an officer to determine that someone is using a hands-free device. The legislation should not be seen as an endorsement of hands-free. My solution? Ban all cell phone communication while driving. Pull over the folks who use hand-held devices, sure, but add a charge for people caught using a hands-free device when involved in an acident. Determining that a hands-free device was being used in that instance would not be impossible to prove and just might discourage some use.

Wanna make/answer a call while driving? Pull over or get off the phone!

1 comment:

Alison Jutzi said...

What if you're on the phone with someone who's really boring, so you're not paying attention to the conversation? I think a viable defense should be, "Yes, officer, I know it's the law - but honestly my friend was just talking about how intuitive her cat is, so..."

Yes? No?