Commentary: Hang Up and Drive!

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 4, 2008

So you’ve bought yourself a hands free phone. Good. Maybe you won’t get a ticket. But don’t assume you’re safer than the driver who is still holding on to his cell phone while going 70 down the freeway. You aren’t.

It’s not your hands. It’s your brain that’s impaired when you talk on the phone and drive too. All the studies show that people who phone and drive are four times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers who don’t. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re using a hands-free device or not.

Talking and driving reduces your cognitive abilities –your perception and judgment, your capacity to react, or even to know what’s going on around you.

Because the brain is engaged elsewhere, it will take you longer to respond in an emergency. You are more likely to drift into another lane or fail to notice when the light turns red.

Sure, talking to a passenger is distracting too, but a passenger can see when you’re about to merge onto a fast-moving freeway, and stop talking. The guy at the other end of the phone can’t.

Want to avoid a ticket? Get a hands-free phone. Want to avoid an accident? Hang up and drive.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.