The National Transportation Safety Board published a study this week that concluded that talking on a cell phone while driving is roughly equivalent to driving while drinking. Our legislature may consider passing a law banning the use of phones in cars http://kpcw.org/2011/12/cell-phone-ban-coming-to-utah/. As someone who commutes to Salt Lake City several times a week, I can certainly testify that drivers who are yakking away while driving down Parleys often operate as if they were drunk. Sometimes people stop for no reason, slow down to a crawl, or swerve into my lane, and most of the time when I pass them I see that their ears are glued to their phones. Obviously there are a lot of things that can distract a drivers, but why add one more component into the mix?
Up until Monday, I did not own a cell phone. I bit the bullet this week and bought myself an iPhone which apparently is capable of delivering novels, newspapers, emails, photos, and phone calls and much, much more to my handset. But I have to tell you that only two days after I had purchased this wonderous gadget, I was contemplating throwing it out the window and running it over.
I had just picked up the mail and started the car and the radio came on. I saw and friend and rolled down the window to say hey, and then the phone went off for the third time that morning. My Aunt wanted to tell me about the gift card she thought I sent her, and how the neighbor opened the package, and how she was getting ready to leave for California ,and who was taking care of her cats, and isn’t her granddaughter adorable, …wait, I’m sending a photo…and don’t you just love your new phone? My friend seemed to be moving her lips silently, and the radio was blasting some annoying song about holiday cheer.
Between all the visual and auditory information that was bombarding me, I thought that I might have made a huge mistake when I added to the mix with my cell phone—and I hadn’t even backed out of the parking lot yet. There is no way that I’d consider answering that phone while I was driving. Last year, PBS ran an interesting documentary call Digital Nation that discussed the myth of multitasking http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/. Researchers performed experiments on students who said they were excellent multitaskers and contrary to the subject’s assertions, they were all really lousy at it. Complex tasks require concentration, and we can’t concentrate on more than one thing at once.
Other than that harrowing incident in Swede Alley, I am really enjoying my new toy. My headlights went out on my car around midnight in Brown’s Canyon last night. Luckily, my high-beams still worked so I was able to make it back to Park City okay. However, I was really glad that I had that phone as a back-up in case I got stranded. There are a lot of useful things I can do with that phone that will probably make my life easier, but the one thing I won’t do is text, talk or drive with it on. You don’t need me to tell you that driving while distracted is a serious problem, but it is also something that all of us can actually correct with little effort. The handiest feature that I’ve discovered about my phone is that I can put it on vibrate and ignore it when I want to. That’s exactly what I’m going to do this evening when I crack open that new hardcover that someone sent me on Thursday…