Should Cell Phone Use in Cars be Banned?

Over the course of the years, computers and other computerized gadgets have become an integral part of the business and social environment. This has been as a result of their efficiency, accuracy, and speed which have revolutionized the manner in which business and social interactions are conducted.

An important concept that has risen with the continued usage of computers is that of the cell phones which have in the past few decades gained prominence as suitable mediums of communication. As of today, over 80% of the world population uses cell phones and nearly all homes own at least one cell phone. Such statistics indicate that these gadgets have proven their worth in facilitating easy, affordable, effective and efficient communication between friends, families, business affiliates and compatriots.

However, the use of cell phones has also proven to be disastrous if not done in the appropriate manner. Data gathered in a recent study indicated that 80% of accidents in our roads today as well as 65% of near accidents are caused by lack of concentration and inattention. The most common distracter was found to be the use of cell phones while in the car. The graph below shows the number of accidents caused each year due to cell phone use while driving. Figures are in thousands.

Annual number of accidents caused by cell phones in US

According to a study conducted by the US National Safety council (2010), there are 1.6 million accidents caused by cell phone use while driving. The study indicated that 1.4 million accidents are caused by talking on the phone while 200, 000 are caused by texting while driving.

Arguably, the use of cell phones while driving may be beneficial to individuals who rely on these gadgets for socialization and work-related activities. However; the risks presented by this unbecoming behavior as expressed in this graph far outweighs the benefits and it would therefore be a worthwhile endeavor to ban cell phone use in cars.

In this research, a detailed analysis of relevant literature regarding to the use of cell phones in the car shall be provided. The various factors that have in the recent past necessitated this behavior shall be presented and the effects emanating from the same given.

An evaluation of available statistical data proving that cell phone use is indeed a serious threat to the safety of individuals in our roads and highways shall also be included in the discussion. In addition, the counter arguments proposed by the proponents of cell phone use in cars shall also be presented. To this end, viable solutions shall be recommended in order to ensure that the use of cell phones in the car is discouraged and subsequently, banned.

Argument for banning cell phone use in cars

In today’s society, the use of cell phones has become an integral part in the social network. It has enabled individuals to stay in touch and the cell phones have been instrumental in the building of a global community. Betts (2004) states that cell phones have over the years proved to be more beneficial in our lives. To further reinforce her claims, the author highlights the various benefits that the world has accrued as a result of cell phone technology (Betts, 2004).

For example, some mobile phones have integrated features that enable the users to connect to the internet which provides vital information pertaining to anything and everything.

In addition to this, mobile phones have also provided people with a global means of communicating and learning about each other through websites like “facebook” and “twitter”. People from different countries globally are able to interact and socialize in the comfort of their homes without the inconveniencies caused by travelling as well as the enormous costs that would have otherwise been incurred.

With these bleak realities, it is evident that the cell phones are indeed vital to society’s ability to interact. However, despite the benefits, cell phones should be used at the right place. Mccartt, Hellinga & Bratiman (2006), state that no one likes to be involved or cause an accident.

The authors argue that cell phone use while driving (no matter the benefits) is a cause of danger in our roads and highways (Mccartt, Hellinga & Bratiman, 2006). The authors assert that texting and dialing requires utmost concentration and may invariably distract the driver from concentrating on the road thereby leading to unwanted accidents.

Similarly, Mccartt, Hellinga & Geary (2006) reiterate that while people claim that they are too busy and cell phones enable them to work in their cars, using a cell phone while driving is dangerous and laws should be enforced to ban this unbecoming practice.

To further support this statement, the author states that talking, texting and browsing while driving distracts the driver thereby making them a hazard to themselves and other road users. He further acknowledges that people have a right to use their cell phones wherever and whenever they want however, such freedoms should be regulated to ensure that they do not stretch too far to an extent that they threaten the safety of others.

In addition, Farmer, Braitman & Lund (2010) assert that using cell phones while driving presents as much danger as driving while intoxicated. To support this argument, Mccartt, Hellinga & Geary (2006) refer to a study conducted at the University of Utah. In the tests, volunteers were required to drive a simulator. The first test, the drivers were to concentrate on their driving without any form of distraction. The second test, the drivers were to use their cell phones and communicate with a friend while driving.

The third test required the volunteers to take alcohol until they attained the.08 blood-alcohol level (considered as intoxication level in most states) then drive the simulator. The results of these tests indicated that the number of crashes and near misses was higher when the volunteers drove while speaking on the phone than when they drove the simulators under the influence of alcohol (Mccartt, Hellinga & Geary, 2006).

Ultimately, the professors conducting the tests claimed that the tests were not aimed at proving that drunken driving is dangerous but rather, to show that cell phone use while driving is equally if not more dangerous. In addition, the professors interviewed traffic officers to further support their claims.

Among the five that interviewed, four of them claimed that the number of times they flagged a driver to stop due to over speeding or reckless driving was higher in cases of cell phone use that in drunken driving cases. Such facts reveal the sad states of affairs we are in and highlight the need to ban cell phone use while driving.

On the same note, Loeb, Clarke & Anderson (2009) assert that in the recent past, many institutions (government or otherwise) have conducted tests to test the extent to which cell phone usage while driving affects the drivers ability to ensure safety.

Results gathered from tests conducted by the Universities of Utah and Illinois indicated the following: “drivers talking on a cell phone are 5.36 times as likely to cause an accident, 18% slower to react to brake light, 17% slower to regain speed after braking, and twice as likely to ‘rear-end’ the car in front (Loeb, Clarke & Anderson, 2009).” These statistics show that the use of cell phones while driving slows down the reaction time of the drivers thereby increasing the likelihood of causing an accident or being in one.

Wilson, Fang, Wiggins & Cooper (2003) further confirm that after the bill banning cell phone use while driving was implemented in California, the 45% of drivers reporting to have been hit or nearly hit by other drivers using cell phone as well as the road fatalities within the state dropped significantly to a minimum percentage of 12.5%.

This shows that banning cell phone use is indeed a viable means of reducing the accidents and other road fatalities that stem from inattentive behaviors exhibited by most drivers on our roads and highways.

In addition, Johnson et al, (2004) state that the reaction time of a twenty year old driver driving while on the phone is equated to that of a seventy year old driver. The authors further state that in most cases, drivers using cell phones meander into other lanes, forget to use their indicators stop suddenly and may slow down thereby inconveniencing other road users.

In 2005, a road accident survey indicated that the use of cell phones in the car contributed to 2,600 road fatalities and an estimated 330,000 injuries each year. Considering that each year 42,000 drivers die in automobile accidents, the use of cell phones presents a serious threat since the behavior is not reducing but it is increasing at an alarming rate. These statistics shows that there is need to ban this behavior before it gets out of hand and claims more unnecessary lives.

However, banning the use of hand held devices while driving may not be a lasting solution. We all acknowledge the fact that hands used in dialing or even worse texting are hands off the steering. In addition, the implications arising from such behaviors are well known by all yet people still do it and will find ways of doing it even after banning the use of hand held devices. In addition, reinforcing such a bill would be very difficult and would require a lot of man power and financial resources.

It would therefore be a worthwhile endeavor to campaign against the use of cell phones while driving. Knowledge is power and those that heed to the lessons taught often succeed in all their endeavors. With this in mind, using billboards, advertisements and other educational tools may in the end reduce the use of cell phones while driving.

Collet, Guillot & Petit (2010) state that if it is safer for a driver to pull over and take a call or even wait until he/she gets to the destination then make the call. However, such gestures are held by a few thereby necessitating the need to ban the use of cell phones while driving.

Similarly, Collet, Guillot & Petit (2010) suggest that using hands free communicating devices may be a safer alternative for drivers who need to make and receive calls while driving. Johnson et al (2004) refute this statement by stating that recent studies show that hands free devices are almost as dangerous as hand held devices. He claims that the distraction does not come from phone itself but from the conversation being held

. Collet, Guillot & Petit (2010) assert that receiving a call from a creditor or sad news may affect the emotional balance of the driver thereby affecting his/ her ability to concentrate. The authors further reiterate that while hands free devices may seem as a fitting solution, the issue is never the devices but the conversation that invariably affects the concentration of the drives to the task at hand. This makes hands free devises unfit and promotes the banning of cell phone use in cars.

On the other hand, Wilson, Fang, Wiggins & Cooper (2003) argues that talking on the phone while driving is as much a distraction as talking to other passengers while driving. As a matter of fact, each driver has in one point in time engaged in a conversation with other passengers. The author however states that texting while driving should be banned. The author states that there is irrefutable proof that texing while driving is more dangerous than drunken driving. To this effect, Betts (2004) suggests that talking on the cell phone while driving should be avoided but not banned or outlawed.

On the same note, Betts (2004) states that other distractions are also as hazardous as talking to a cell phone while driving. For example, the author claims that listening to the radio, having an argument or conversation with other passengers, babies crying or even adjusting the AC are hazardous distractions that have been documented as potential causes of accidents.

To further support this claim, the National Center for Policy Analysis (2004) presented these results from a study conducted in Virginia. The information presented herein was collected from over 2,700 crash sites and 4,500 drivers were interviewed and studied to determine the main causes of car accidents.

Other causes of road accidents

In as much as the governments and other institutions are trying to make the roads safer by eliminating all forms of distractions, humans will always find new ways of taking their minds off the tasks at hand thereby making the goal to ensure road safety impossible. As has been illustrated in the chart above.

In addition, Wilson, Fang, Wiggins & Cooper (2003) reiterate that distractions are to humans and they should not be punished for being human. However, distractions can be avoided by drivers and it is the role of each individual to ensure that they mitigate any behavior that may lead to safety hazards in our roads.

Such an initiative does not call for harsh measures such as banning cell phone use while driving but appeals to individuals to be conscious and vigilant when it comes to maintaining their safety and that of other road users whenever they are on the roads.

Recommendations

Currently, few states have put in place laws regulating the use of cell phones while driving. The ones that have banned these habits do not have serious punishments. As such, all states should implement bills guarding against the use of cell phones in cars and ensure that they match the crime with a fitting punishment.

Cameras should be used to monitor drivers and sign posts erected to warn them against such behaviors. In as much, as such regulations and requirements invade individual’s freedom, the cost of using cell phones far outweighs the benefits and since people cannot desist from this addictive behavior, the responsible authorities have to step in and regulate the practice.

Evidently, as a human race, we are increasingly becoming depended on cell phones. The reasons for this are justifiable since the benefits of such dependency far outweigh the negative implications. However, it would be unwise to ignore the potential risks that are posed from the same especially in regards to the distractive nature of some of the features availed on the cell phones.

It is therefore important that we as the human race control the influences that these gadgets have in our lives in order to secure a better future for the generations to come while maintaining our human nature and cultural orientations.

In addition to this, to further avoid the ramifications of cell phone use while driving, individuals should monitor each other to ensure that they do not persist with such risky tendencies and if unavoidable, ensure that the proper actions are followed. In so doing, we all will have played a pivotal role in lessening road accidents and secure a safer future for generations to come.

References

Betts, R. (2004). A history of popular culture: more of everything, faster, and brighter. CA: Routledge.

Collet, C., Guillot, A., & Petit, C. (2010). Phoning while driving I: a review of epidemiological, psychological, behavioral and physiological studies. Ergonomics, 53(5), 589 – 601.

Farmer, C., Braitman, K., & Lund, A. (2010). Cell Phone Use While Driving and Attributable Crash Risk. Traffic Injury Prevention, 11(5), 466 – 470.

Johnson, B et al. (2004). Living Dangerously: Driver Distraction at High Speed. Traffic Injury Prevention, 5(1), 1 – 7.

Loeb, P., Clarke, W., & Anderson, R. (2009). The impact of cell phones on motor vehicle fatalities. Applied Economics, 41(22), 2905 – 2914.

Mccartt, A., Hellinga, L., & Bratiman, K. (2006). Cell Phones and Driving: Review of Research. Traffic Injury Prevention, 7(2), 89 – 106.

Mccartt, A., Hellinga, L., & Geary, L. (2006). Effects of Washington, D.C. Law on Drivers’ Hand-Held Cell Phone Use. Traffic Injury Prevention, 7(1), 1 – 5.

Wilson, J., Fang, M., Wiggins, S., & Cooper, P. (2003). Collision and Violation Involvement of Drivers Who Use Cellular Telephones. Traffic Injury Prevention, 4(1), 45 – 52.