They didn’t tell up front what their studies had revealed, but it was really obvious as the segment played out. First of all they had a fellow dress up like a clown, big red nose and all, and ride a unicycle past people who were talking on cell phones. When they went back and asked the person if they had seen anything unusual, they didn’t have a clue that the clown had ridden past.
Sometimes the clown just wheeled past. Sometimes he bounced past the cell phone user, right beside of them, and sometimes he made multiple passes in front of the cell phone users. He was only a few feet, or even a few inches away. The cell phone users were so absorbed in their telephone conversations that they didn’t even know he was there. Pretty amazing, don’t you think?
This wasn’t part of the segment, but it made me think how vulnerable people make themselves when they are out on the streets walking around with a cell phone stuck to their ear. They make themselves targets for pick pockets, thieves, abusers. If they have children with them that they are supposed to be watching over, the children are vulnerable right under their noses.
Have you ever been in the vehicle with someone on the cell phone? They are poking numbers, looking at the phone, and chatting away, even if other people in the car are put at risk by their cell phone use.
I have found myself riding with people who are addicted to their cell phones. It doesn’t matter how rude they are being to the people who are with them. They have to answer the phone every single time it rings and talk as if there is no one else around. Or they make call after call on the road. Lately, cell phone use has taken a back seat to texting. I REFUSE to ride with anyone who thinks they can text and drive at the same time.
I have a right, you have a right to tell a person who is operating the vehicle you are in to either pull off the road and take care of their messaging or to put it away until you have arrived safely at your destination. None of us with a lick of sense would consider crawling in the car with someone who was drinking alcohol the whole time we were riding with them, now would we? According to the TV segment I viewed, just talking on the cell phone reduces a person’s attentiveness by 25%. The segment didn’t deal with texting, but I’d guess that percentage would raise to at least 50%.
Let’s go one step further. What if the driver isn’t on the cell phone, but someone in the vehicle with them is chatting away? Surprisingly enough, having another person on the phone pretty much has the same effect. The experiment that emphasized this involved having a person assemble a stool. First they put it together with no distractions. Later, the same person and the same stool were in the room with a second party who was talking on the cell phone the whole time they were trying to put the stool together. Every single one of them took longer, some of them much longer, to assemble the same stool they had done previously. Because of the experience of already having done this once, it would be expected that their time would be shorter, not longer.
There is something about the human brain that focuses on the unknown when we hear a person on a cell phone. We hear only half of the conversation, so the brain automatically begins to try and fill in the blanks - the half of the conversation that is not heard.
It is estimated that at least half of all teens do own or will own cell phones very soon. Couple that with new drivers who are overly confident about their driving skills, then throw in their cell phone usage, or texting. It is a formula for disaster. I recently heard about a young woman killed when her truck went off the road and wrapped around a tree. What was she doing when she went off the road? Her very last text was from her boyfriend saying, “Don’t text while you’re driving.”
I have been guilty of talking on the cell phone while I’m traveling alone. It makes the time go faster. It is an opportunity to talk without being interrupted by things that might interrupt at home. I thought the most dangerous thing about cell phone use and driving was probably when you have to try to dig the phone out of your purse or pocket before the ringing stopped. So, when I drive, I place my cell phone somewhere that it can be answered easily. I thought that was a thoughtful and safe solution. I also never dreamed that if I answered a call on my cell phone, even if I kept it very short and polite, was actually putting everyone in the car at risk.
After watching this segment and doing a little Internet research, I will never view cell phone usage in the car the same way.
How many people do you see passing on the highway with a cell phone to their ear? If people in other cars are distracted and the driver of your vehicle is distracted inside their own car, what does that tell you? We are putting ourselves at risk through a bad habit that we don’t have to indulge. If a call is important enough to need to make or to receive, why not pull over in the next safe place and deal with the call off the highway? If you happen to be driving on the interstate, why not say, “I’ll call you back in a few minutes.” (or when you arrive at your destination).
For all of our sakes, we should rethink cell phones and driving. Of course, the cell phone companies in the research I’ve done on the Internet declare that their studies show no increased risk of cell phone use and driving. Cell phones as tools are neither bad nor good in themselves. They are only tools that make life more convenient in this age. It is the way we use them that creates potential problems behind the wheel.