Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cell Phones and Autos

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cell Phones and Autos

Article excerpt

MIAMI -- One of those sport utility vehicles the size of Montana was lugging in on me from the center lane. As I looked up, way up, I noted that the driver, cigarette dangling from her lips, was otherwise occupied talking on her cellular phone. I sounded my horn to gain her attention, thus saving me from extensive auto repairs and, likely, a visit to the emergency room -- or worse.

I now know what I fear most: not the giant urban chariots themselves but people in them (and other vehicles) who talk on cell phones.

Last week, a high school honors student who was skating on a bicycle path near my home was struck and killed by a car that veered off the road and came onto the parallel path. Reports say the driver either was talking on her cell phone or had dropped it and was leaning to pick it up. Either way, she was distracted from her driving, lost control and someone died.

The case against using cell phones while operating a vehicle has been building for some time. Already, laws have been passed in several states to deal with it. Now, such a movement is under way in Florida; a direct result of the death of the young lady.

There are those who maintain that hands-free cell phones will remedy the problem, and there are those who insist that it will not, that the real problem is the distraction of talking of being attentive to something other than your driving.

Coincidentally, I came upon an old newspaper clipping the other day that would tend to agree with those who say it is the act of talking on the phone, more than holding it, that poses the greatest danger.

Back in 1956, there was a story in the Miami Herald that a local auto insurance agent would not write policies for people who had radios in their cars. He referred to accidents with which he was familiar that "were the direct result of drivers' attention being distracted because they were listening to ball games instead of concentrating on driving safety."

Was the agent overreacting? Probably. An Allstate sales manager, interviewed in the same article, said there was "no evidence that the driver of a car which carries a radio is either worse or better than the driver of an automobile not so equipped. …

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