Cell Phone Distractions are Just the Tip of the Iceberg
There’s a big debate nationwide about whether or not it is safe to use cell phones while driving under any circumstances. Here in Pittsburgh it’s causing quite a bit of stir on the local airwaves, with talk-radio hosts dueling with legislators and defensive driving gurus about how unsafe it is to talk even using a hands-free device. While texting is blatantly a no-no for drivers, using a hands-free bluetooth headset seems to be a safe option. Many new vehicles even come with bluetooth technology built in to the receiver so you don’t even need a headset, and many aftermarket radios offer bluetooth as well.
Safety advocates state that even talking on a headset promotes “zoning out” and therefore should be banned. Users argue that there’s not much difference between talking to a person next to you and talking on a headset.
For my part, I fall on the side of it being safe to use a headset. However the discussion about safety is one that still needs to be seriously considered, and I don’t think that headsets or hands-free devices are the primary culprit of distracted driving. Technology itself isn’t the only problem either, but it can be a major part of the problem.
Overall we try and do too much while we’re driving – talk, change the radio station, glimpse at the GPS, fix the AC, you get the idea. All of these things are distractions, and we can only eliminate so many of them. Eliminating technology from vehicles is not going to solve the problem of distracted driving or “zoning out”. I can recall zoning out several times driving across PA on I-80 from New Haven to Pittsburgh when I was in school, and I can say that there was absolutely no technology involved. I didn’t have a cell phone, GPS or even a CD player back then.
I think blaming cell phones for all our motor vehicle accidents isn’t helpful or correct. To completely eliminate distractions, then you need to take down the billboards and road signs, get rid of the highway markers, eliminate car stereos and GPS units entirely, and make all vehicles 1-seaters so there can’t be anyone to talk to who might take your mind off the road.
We do need to realize how many distractions we have and how to minimize them when we drive. We do so many things in the car that we simply don’t have to do while we’re driving. In many instances, it’s a simple manner of pulling off the road or letting that call or text go to a message and checking it later.
I don’t have much of a Libertarian streak in me, but education and responsible use has always seemed more appropriate to me than simply banning something, especially when the reasons for the ban are hazy at best.