Steering Toward Cell-free Driving

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - July 21, 2005
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Well, now they’ve done it. They’ve taken away my final rationale for using a cell phone in a car. I have to admit I was pretty smug, too, with my hands-free headset. Thought I was being so responsible — and even lectured a couple of friends about cell safety.

Oops. Now comes that study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that says, in essence, I am just as hazardous on the road as the folks who hold their teeny phones up to their ears while navigating busy streets. We all are four times more likely to be involved in accidents that send us to the hospital. The risk is the same, according to the study, whether the driver is young or old, male or female.

So now I’m bummed. I had developed such a nice routine: Make appointments on the drive to work, chat with friends on the drive home. I loved it. What an efficient use of otherwise wasted time, I thought. Now I’ll just have to … well, drive. That’s it. No distractions. Nothing to do but concentrate, keep my eyes on the road, and pay attention to what I’m doing. What a concept.

I do think, though, that there’s a reason so many of us love to talk and drive. Blame it on our overscheduled lives. We spend all our time either working or frenetically playing. Every moment of our day is used up — except for the commute. That time on the road — often solitary — is the only time we have left. And now — it’s gone. For me, anyway.

I thought about ignoring the study. Not me, I thought. I am such a cautious driver. But then I decided to be honest about it. Brutally honest. There have been times when I’ve been a little slow to react. When I’ve muscled into a lane when I should have waited. I’ve missed my exits and gotten lost — and when I looked back on all the little “incidents” I’ve had, I realized they had one thing in common. They occurred while I was yakking on the phone. Handsfree. It’s not the use of the hands; it’s the distraction of the mind. And my mind would gloss over what was happening on the road as I concentrated on the conversation.

OK. Now the hard part. Breaking the DWT habit. Driving while talking is not an easy addiction to overcome. It’s going to have to be cold turkey. Get rid of the headset. Keep the phone in the purse. Because I know I can’t do it a little at a time. Tonight was a prime example. Even as I contemplated the issue, my hand was screwing in that cord. Just one call, I thought. And one became two. It would have been three if I’d had more time.

Tonight, out it goes. I’ll have to find some other time — or make some downtime — so I can catch up with friends. The important thing is to break the addiction.

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