Ban Mobile Devices and Driving

Should you be allowed to talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time? Perhaps not.
Written by Dave Greenfield, Contributor

Should you be allowed to talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time? Perhaps not. A debate ignited by Verizon Wireless's recent backing of a ban on texting and driving underscores the dangers all mobile activities pose while driving a car.

According to the New York Times, Verizon "....will work with state legislators around the country advocating for such policies and who appear to have a reasonable chance of passing legislation, said Steven E. Zipperstein, vice president and general counsel for Verizon Wireless."

Zipperstein's explains that the reason those efforts stem from concerns about safety. "Why? For the same reason we supported bans on using hand-held phones. Because if you have one hand on the wheel and one on the device, it's less safe," Mr. Zipperstein said."

Yet in fact the dangers of texting while driving are no different than any mobile activity. A study that came out from the National Safety Council's Journal of Safety research last month suggests that drivers may engage in other distracting activities while they drive because they don't accurately perceive the danger of doing so.

Further research published in the American Psychological Association's December issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, showed that even hands-free communication devices influence the way drivers look at the situations that may occur on the road.

Analysis of their behavior revealed that driving while talking over the cell phone reduced driving performances significantly, as a large portion of the driver's attention was required, in order to listen to what the other person was saying. When both conversation partners were inside the car, the passengers also took an active interest in driving, by helping the drivers asses traffic situations and urging them to be careful.

Verizon Wireless' motion to ban texting and driving may be more commercial than humanitarian. The last thing that Verizon Wireless would want is to ban all mobile activity while driving. There's big business to be made from minutes sold while people drive their cars.

Yet if enough momentum gathers and laws pass banning all mobile activities, Verizon could well feel it on the bottom line. Supporting a more moderate ban on the most blatant of activities minimizes such a move from occurring and gives Verizon Wireless a nice PR coup. This is why Verizon doesn't attribute the problems of texting and driving to matters of concentration for if they forget about calling as we drive.

If the studies are right, though, if talking while driving really is as dangerous as texting, then we should ban all mobile activities while operating a car. Concentrate on the road or concentrate on your cell. You choose.

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