Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cell phones should not be allowed when driving

There is another study out that points to the risks of using cell phones while driving. In this study the Carnegie Mellon researchers estimate that just listening to someone on the other end of a cell phone conversation diminishes the ability of the driver to process information. The upshot is cell phone use is potentially as damaging as drunk driving (this conclusion is supported by nearly all studies of cell phone use while driving). I suspect the total social and direct costs of cell phone use are higher than drunk driving because most drunk drivers are on the road at night when there are fewer vehicles to crash into. Cell phones are used during peak hours (and at night), which means that driver distraction is likely to lead to more crashes. Of course, the cell phone caused crashes may be more likely to occur at lower speeds than late night speeders and not result in such terrible car-to-car collisions. But daytime cell phone users probably hit far more bicyclists and pedestrians. The personal costs to injury are probably comparable.

I don't see a MADD type organization emerging to fight cell phone use by drivers, so I have little hope for useful policy to get passed. But it would be nice.
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