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I had quite a lot of time to think about my new personal ban on cell phone use while driving as I inched along the Beltway this morning on my way to the office.
I decided to take that step the other day after reading the New York Times’ extensive story on the subject, Driven to Distraction.
Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.
We may as well all be driving around drunk, people! Even if we’re using our Bluetooth! That’s frightening!
I took a little visual poll, looking into each car I passed to see who was doing what with their phones. On the left: woman texting. On the right: man talking. And another, and another, and another.
I got all indignant, angry that these people were endangering my life just because they had to – right now, this instant – talk.
Then I looked over at the passenger seat, where my iPhone was sitting, and broke my two-day-old ban myself. Twice.
First I read a text from my husband (“The therapist just dislocated my shoulder. I can’t believe she did that. Now it hurts like a mo fo.”). Then I called him to see if he was okay.
I think I may have to do what one guy quoted in the Times’ story did: put the thing in the trunk. That was the only way he could break himself of the habit, even after his son was killed in 2004 after being hit by a woman talking on her phone.
But then: What if I really, really need it?