Last Updated 18 Jun 2020

Driving Under the Influence of a Cell Phone

Category Cell Phone
Essay type Process
Words 1790 (7 pages)
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Driving Under the Influence of a Cell Phone Dameatrius McCreary, age 5 was killed when he was hit by a driver that had reached down to pick up a ringing cell-phone that had fallen to the floor of the car. Dameatrius had just gotten off a school bus that was dropping him off. The school bus was parked, had its warning lights flashing and a stop sign out when he was hit by the vehicle (11 Reasons to ban). Each year in the United States, talking on a cell phone while driving causes an estimated 2600 motor vehicle-related deaths and 330,000 moderate to critical injuries (Lissy).

Driving is a complex task at the best of times. A driver speeds up and slows down, steers, changes lanes, scans the road for hazards, checks mirrors, merges, and brakes. When in traffic, drivers must process a great deal of information in a very short time. Talking on a cell phone while driving greatly impacts ones’ ability to drive safely. Despite the known risk, many people still use a cell phone while driving. Cell phones are not only cognitively distracting, but they affect peripheral vision and cause reaction time to become much slower.

By banning cell-phone usage while driving, the number of deaths and injuries could be decreased significantly. Lawmakers need to push this issue into law before more innocent lives are taken. Some people feel they are experienced enough drives and have the ability to drive and talk on a cell phone. My brother thinks he is the best driver in the world. We have had many discussions on how dangerous it is to focus more on your phone than on the road. He feels that no amount of talking on the phone or texting is going to be detrimental to his driving.

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I have found this common attitude with many of my family and friends who drive with the phone stuck to their ear. This behavior is not due to a lack of awareness of the dangers. They truly believe they are in control of their environment and overestimate their own ability to drive safely while talking on the phone. This superman mind-set clouds their way of thinking. In fact many people know that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous, and some even consider it more risky than eating or putting on make-up in the car. In a focus group, held in 2000, benefits of driving while talking on a cell phone were discussed.

Some of the argued benefits were to, “expand productivity for commuters, improve mental alertness, and diminish the tendency to speed (Lissy 44). In another study conducted in 2002 by Hammond and Horswill showed “drivers with a high desire for control were more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors than were those with a low desire for control” (Schlehofer 1108). It is this high desire for control that causes drivers to overlook the danger that is involved in talking on the phone and focus on what they are able to accomplish while doing it.

It is true if you talk on the phone while driving you will probably get more accomplished, but is it worth the risk? Talking on a cell phone is a cognitive distraction plain and simple. Several studies show that a driver paying attention to a conversation on a cell phone is distracted simply because he is paying attention to the conversation, reducing the attention he is paying to driving and what is going on around him (Ropeik and Gray 71). Not only is talking a distraction, but today our phones are loaded with applications, which usually require two hands to operate.

We have all witnessed drivers that have one hand on the wheel and the other hand typing, or driving with their knee while texting. When your hands are holding your phone, or dialing or receiving a call, they’re not holding the steering wheel or helping to control the vehicle. Think of the last time you came upon someone driving in the left hand lane while traveling under the speed limit. A lot of the time they are talking on their phone. Many times they merge into your lane and never realize that you are even there.

Cell phone usage may decrease speed, but it also creates more of a hazard for drivers and everyone else around them. Research at the University of Utah suggests that cognitive distraction may be the most important distraction since their test subjects did equally poorly when using hands-free or hand-held devices (Ropeik and Gray 71). Talking on a cell phone while driving, dramatically affects your peripheral vision. It has been claimed that driving while talking on a cell phone can be as or more dangerous than driving drunk.

I know that when I have been talking on the phone while driving and change lanes or turn, it is not as easy to see other cars. It has only taken a couple of close calls for me to realize that my life and that of my family is not worth the 5 minute conversation I could be having with someone. A study done by the Southern College of Optometry to measure visual fields with and without a cell phone conversation taking place suggests that cell phone conversations tend to artificially constrict the peripheral awareness as measured by a visual field. This suggests that cell phone use while riving can decrease the perceptual visual field, making the driver less aware of the surroundings and more susceptible to accident (Maples et al 36). Think of those times you have picked up your phone to see who is calling or to read a text you have just received. As you look at the phone, glancing up every so often to see what is ahead of you, are you paying attention to what is around you? Are you able to look over your shoulder to make sure no one is in your blind spot before changing lanes? Generally you have no idea what is behind or on the side of you.

Suddenly you are so involved in reading that text or taking that phone call that everything around you disappears. Driving requires the use of all of your faculties. If you are looking for your phone, or at your phone to make a call, you are not looking at the road. Furthermore, the reaction time decreases dramatically when using a phone while driving. University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer stated, “Drivers talking on cell phones were 18% slower to react to brake lights and once the driver hits the brakes, it takes them longer to get back into the normal flow of traffic.

The net result is they are impeding the overall flow of traffic” (Britt). Stop and go traffic is already frustrating, but drivers who are paying more attention to what is going on with their phone than with traffic just amplifies the problem. Studies of driver performance, observing drivers both on simulators and in the field, have shown that mobile phone use while driving can adversely affect reaction time, swerving ability, and the ability to execute difficult driving tasks (Ropeik and Gray 71).

Driving with both hands on the wheel and having your eyes focused on the road the whole time is hard enough. Now add the distraction of a cell phone and one is bound to have problems. As much as we would like to think that we can do multiple things at the same time, the reality is no one is perfect. Case in point: On Thanksgiving weekend, 1999, John and Carole Hall were killed when a Naval Academy midshipman crashed into their parked car. The driver said in court that when he looked up from the cell phone he was dialing, he was 3 feet from the car and had no time to stop (Stockwell B8).

University of Utah research found that test subjects took longer to react to traffic signals and completely missed twice as many of those signals when they were on the phone (Ropeik and Gray 71). Matt Wilhelm was cycling near Urbana, Illinois when he was struck and killed by a driver that was downloading ring tones to her cell phone. Matt’s death has prompted cell phone legislation that has been signed by Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. The new law teaches teen drivers the importance of avoiding distraction while they are driving (11 Reasons to ban).

Recently Oprah has been promoting a No Phone Zone pledge challenging her viewers to stop using their cell phones while driving. They pledge to not text or talk on their cell phone. We can all take this pledge and help get the word out how dangerous it is to let our cell phones distract us from safe driving. Driving is a complex task that requires the driver's full attention. Smart drivers keep their hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road and focus more attention on driving than talking on the phone. Because of increased injuries and deaths surrounding accidents involving cell phones, we must begin to take this problem seriously.

How many more lives need to be claimed before we take a stand? The time is now to call your local representative and voice your opinion before someone you love is affected by this dangerous habit. It is time we put the brake on our cell phone usage while driving. Banning cell phone use while driving may not totally eliminate the number of deaths or accidents that happen, but it will dramatically decrease them for sure. How many lives can we save by simply putting our cell phones down and concentrating on actually driving?

Works Cited “11 Reasons to ban Cell-Phone Use While Driving. DrivingLaws. org 951online. LLC, 2009. Web. 6 July 2010. Britt, Robert Roy. “Drivers on Cell Phones Kill Thousands; Snare Traffic Technology. ” Live Science. com. TechMedia Network. 01/02/2005. Web. 5 July 2010. Lissy M. P. H. , Karen S. , et al. "Cellular Phone Use While Driving: Risks and benefits. " Cell Phone Free Driving. Harvard Center for Risk Analysis: Harvard School of Public Health. July 2000. Web. 1 July 2010. Maples, W. C. , et al. “The Effects of Cell Phone Use on Peripheral Vision. ” Optometry 79 (2008): 36-42. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 July 2010. Ropeik, David, and George Gray. "Cellular Telephones and Driving. " Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Company, 2002. 70-75. NetLibrary. Web. 1 July 2010. Schlehofer, Michele M. , et al. "Psychological Predictor of College Students' Cell Phone Use While Driving. " Accident Analysis and Prevention 42. 4 (2010):1107-1112. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 July 2010. Stockwell, Jamie. “Phone Use Faulted in Collision. ” Washington Post 6 Dec. 2000: B1+. Web. 13 July 2010.

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