Cell Phones and Driving Essay

Over the past years there has been a hike in new technologies developed, and these devices have made their way into vehicles. Cell phones were first introduced in the U. S. in the mid 1980’s, and have since experienced dramatic growth. Cell phone use while driving should be the concern of motorists and policymakers and have lead policymakers to consider whether the use of cell phone while driving should be regulated or even prohibited. These new technologies often have people regularly engaged in multitasking activities behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, these distractions come at a cost of diverting attention away from the primary task of driving. It can be speculated that people who use their cell phones while driving is likely to engage in risky behaviors. However, cell phones are useful technology for people on the move, and that include people operating motor vehicles. Majority of cell phone owners report that they use the technology while driving. However, concerns have been raised that the use of cell phone while driving increases the risks of traffic collisions, property damages, injuries and fatalities.

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It may however be the case of a person’s emotional state while on phone that contributes to driving erratically. Cell phone conversations do interfere with driving in one way or another, and usually in a negative way. Regulations regarding the use of cell phone while driving should be standardized because of the distractions, emotions, and costs. Driver distractions are important risk factors associated with road traffic injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cell phones are known distractions (www. edmunds. com).

There are different types of driver distractions but there is sufficient subjective evidence that cell phone usage most definitely interfere with driving. However, the effects of phone conversations while driving are still not well understood. The duration of a typical phone conversation is often significantly greater than the time required to dial or answer the phone. Whether we choose to admit it or not, talking on the phone while driving may decrease our ability to operate the vehicle effectively. However, with today’s huge technology influx, dialing and answering the phone are not the only risky behavior by drivers.

Some of the other activities associated with cell phones now include texting, using the phone as a navigational system, reading or sending emails, along with many more technological goings on. The use of cell phones while driving can cause drivers to take their eyes off the road, their hands of the steering wheel, and their minds off their surroundings. There is growing evidence suggesting that this type of distraction can impair performance in a number of ways such as longer reaction time, inability to maintain lanes, shorter following distances and an overall reduction in the awareness of the whole driving situation.

One major distraction nowadays is texting, a low cost form of communication, but the increase use of text messaging while driving has become a road safety concern especially among our young drivers. Young drivers are more likely to be using their cell phones to text while driving, and are more vulnerable to the effects of distractions given their relative inexperience behind the wheel. One in four American teen drivers admitted to texting while driving, and forty percent of twelve to seventeen year olds say they have been in a car where a teen driver used a cell phone in a dangerous way (www. eendriversource. org). Although teenagers might not realize it, any cell phone use whether hand-held or hands-free while driving is dangerous. However, if the interference is primarily due to the manipulation of the phone, then policies such as those recently enacted by New York State (Chapter 69 of the Laws of 2001, section 1225c), discouraging drivers from using hand-held devices but permitting the use of hands-free units, could be one way to eliminated using cell phones manually while driving.

There is no doubt that cell phone usage while driving is a distraction that can lead to inattention, even though there seems to be a general misunderstanding as to the nature and relative importance of this distraction. Although young drivers present a particular urgent situation when it comes to using cell phone while driving, the issue is also a risky one for adult drivers as well. There are numerous other distractions other than using a cell phone, both inside and outside the vehicle that can distract the driver from the task at hand.

A number of studies have ranked a number of activities such as eating or drinking, events happening outside the vehicle, adjusting radio settings, consulting GPS navigation, and having a conversation with passengers in the vehicle as more distracting than talking on a cell phone. However, it has been demonstrated that the cognitive aspect of cell phone use while driving is more distracting than the mechanical ones. Most importantly, it is also well proven that there is virtually no difference in cognitive distraction between a conversation sing a hand-held phone and one using a hands-free unit. The fact of the matter is that the brain power that is totally dedicated to the conversation and not the holding of the actual device is what takes the attention away from the driving. Most drivers are aware of the effects that things like cell phone use and drinking have on driving safety, while giving little consideration to other factors that can be even more distracting. For instance, stress, fatigue and our emotions also have serious effects on driving.

Driving skills can be negatively impacted if you are worried, upset, frightened, depressed, or even happily excited as it would be if you were engaged in an intense phone call. There is the possibility that cell phone conversations while driving cause withdrawal of attention from the task at hand, causing what is referred to as a form of inattention blindness (Rensink, Oregan, & Clark, 1997; Simons & Chabris, 1999). An emotionally charged conversation such as an argument with a spouse, child, friend, or getting some bad news will definitely distract the driver from the task at hand and provide the possibility of a tragedy.

In a study seeking to investigate the relationship between different types of cell phone conversation and dangerous driving behaviors, it was theorized in a simulated environment, that the more emotional the phone conversations engaged in while driving, the greater the frequencies of dangerous driving behaviors occurring, compared to more mundane conversations or no conversation at all. The study further confirmed that while using a cell phone and driving is definitively dangerous, emotionally intense conversations versus more mundane conversations are likely considerably more risky.

Keeping emotions in control and your attention on the road, and not being diluted by distractions or strong emotions will make a huge difference in driving safety. Scientific evidence to date suggests that use of cell phone while driving does create safety risks for the driver and his/her passenger as well as other road users. The enormity of these risks is uncertain, but appears to be relatively low in probability compared to other risks in daily life.

Unfortunately, the use of cell phones while driving can also impose costs on society. There are numerous costs associated with the increased risk of accidents and deaths from the use of cell phones while driving. Literature and research suggest that something needs to be done to reduce the loss of life and money associated with using cell phones while driving. It is estimated that several hundred people die each year in the United States as a consequence of collisions related to cell phone use.

However, the amount of deaths caused by the use of cell phones is small in comparison to vehicular accidents, but municipalities, states, and even some countries have proposed a large array of restrictions on the use of cell phones while driving anyway. There is also the cost associated with the traffic congestion created by someone being on their cell phone, and the cost of putting rules and regulations in place can be extremely expensive. The costs of lowering speed limits are primarily a time and productivity costs to motorists and also an inconvenience cost that is central to the policy debate about using cell phones while driving.

It is believed that it would be more costly to lower speed limits to accommodate motorist safety on the cell phones than to prohibit the use of cell phones while driving, even though we are only aware of one benefit-cost study that has attempt to quantify, in monetary units, the benefits and costs of a prohibition on the use of cell phones while driving. In the study Hahn and Tetlock (1999) estimate the cost of a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving would exceed the benefits of the ban by more than $20 billion per year.

The same study concluded that permitting only the use of hands-free phones while driving would also have costs in excess of benefits and further note that the cost of banning cell phone use while driving is about $700,000 for each quality-adjusted life year saved. This is thirty times more expensive than achieving the same public health benefit with driver airbags, and ten times more expensive than achieving the benefit of keeping the speed limit on interstate highways at 55 instead of 65 MPH (www. hsph. harvard. edu). These types of studies however are limited.

There is no public consensus on what dollar value should be applied to the prevention of traumatic death or injury, although there are estimates of such values in the economic literature that are employed by Hahn and Tetlock (1999). So far, a prohibition on the use of cell phones while driving appears to be a relatively inefficient investment in traffic safety. Further economic studies (Ropeik, D. , 2000) suggest that the monetary value of using a cellular telephone while driving exceeds the cost, even when those costs include both human injury and material damage expressed in dollar units.

Economic efficiency is not necessarily a decisive factor in public policy, but it is certainly a perspective worthy of consideration by policymakers. Numerous efforts are underway to keep drivers safe, including efforts from federal, state, local agencies, parent groups, and schools. In actuality, there are real perceived benefits of using cell phones while driving. Cell phones have now become ubiquitous and are now considered a necessity rather then luxury. A great importance has been placed on being able to communicate anytime, anywhere, with anyone you choose.

The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis addressed the question and conducted studies using focus groups to examine these perceived benefits of using a cell phone while driving. The studies found that there were individual and family benefits, peace of mind, contacting emergency services, expanding productive time, and more effective apprehension of criminals (such as drunk drivers), along with other positive benefits. Regulations of the use of cell phones while driving is now commonplace outside the United States, but has also been proposed in a number of jurisdictions inside the U.

S. On benefit-cost grounds alone, a proposed ban on mandating the use of hands-free devices are not likely to be justified in the United States and there is no surety such policies are justified elsewhere because of the absence of sufficient data. The complete restriction of cell phone use by drivers seems to be unlikely because of the lack of concrete evidence showing how many crashes are caused by cell phone use, and what the cost of such a ban would be.

Moreover, estimates of accidents and fatality reductions do not take into account how drivers would alter their behavior in response to regulations. Drivers might simply switch to other risky behaviors if regulations are enforced, therefore the possibility of net reductions in accidents and fatalities are likely to be overstated. There is also the move in technology towards voice-activated cell phone calls, which could vastly reduce some risks. Over the years, the use of cell phones while driving has been compared to that of driving under the influence of alcohol.

However, the use of cell phone while driving occurs far more frequently than drinking and driving, but the impairment caused by the phone use is less known. The push for stricter regulations regarding the use of cell phones while driving has not been as clear cut as that of drinking and driving. Several groups have advocated the elimination of cell phone use while driving as part of their mandate, and there are others like the Orthopedic Trauma Association (OTA) hat are currently highlighting the danger of texting while driving with the use of their public service campaign called “Decide to Drive”. A Washington lobbying firm know as the Seward Square Group, along with the Consumer Electronics Association, a major trade group, are currently actively trying to change the debate over the dangers of distracted driving. The groups argue that prohibiting the broad use of these devices might hinder innovation or the adoption of technologies with the potential to improve safety.

They also believe that comparing using a cell phone while driving to driving under the influence are disadvantageous and that the current state-specific and state-regulated legislation bans on texting while driving, along with prohibiting phone use for young drivers, and using hands-free devices are adequate for motorists and pedestrians safety. Supporters and critics of a widespread ban on cell phone use must also determine if such a ban would even be enforceable.

Also, if lobbying Congress to apply federal pressure on states is unsuccessful, advocacy groups can attempt to influence the public on voicing their opinions and concerns on the effects of cell phone use while driving. Base on the limited data collected on this push for standardization, before major policy decisions are made about cell phones, the government and the technological industry should probably work together to produce a richer body of knowledge on both the risks and benefits of using cell phones while driving.

It is likely that the cell phone market could more effectively address risks associated with its usage than would highly regulatory government intervention. The Government and cell phone industry should collect better scientific information on the risks and benefits, and in the interim, should encourage more selective and prudent use of cell phones while driving, through vigorous public education programs. To address these issues, the government should collect more systematic information on the possible relationship between cell phone use while driving and accidents.

Based on the modest scientific evidence collected to date, efforts to make public policy are likely to produce ill-informed decisions that may do society more harm than good. The restrictions imposed could be difficult to reverse and might drastically limit the ability for research to quickly produce better scientific information that can compare risks and benefits, which would allow for more fully informed, reasonable policy. Instead of regulating now, the government should probably carefully monitor the problem and improve the information base for making regulatory decisions.

It is possible that fatalities associated with the use of cell phones while driving are significantly understated now. Although there is evidence that manual manipulation of cell phones while driving has a negative impact; the distracting effects persist even when the manual sources are removed. While the decision to use a cell phone while driving creates risks to the driver and occupants of the vehicle, and to pedestrians, bicyclist, and motorists in other vehicles, these risks are small in probability.

These risks should be weighed against the benefits that such communications provided to users, families, social networks, businesses and communities. Many of these benefits offer potential improvement in public health and safety. These possible benefits and the magnitude of the risks, must be measured in future research, and balanced against one another, before informed, rational policies regarding cell phone use by motorists can be made.

It is indeed a fact that the use of cell phones does interfere with driving, and the regulations regarding the use of cell phones while driving should be standardized. However, regulatory issues are best left to legislators and further studies are needed to conclusively prove that the comparison of cell phone use while driving and inebriated driving is valid. Regardless of the future of legislation regarding cell phone use while driving, few can argue the soundness of efforts to inform motorists of the dangers associated with distracted driving for any reason. In the long run, skillfully crafted regulations, phone users’ responsibility, and better driver education addressing driver distractions will be essential to keep our roadways safe.

References

Distracted Driving: The Emerging Policy on Cell Phone Use. Retrieved from http://www. aaos. org Distracted Driving Laws. Retrieved from http://www. teendriversource. org Driven to Distraction. Retrieved from http://www. edmunds. com How Emotions Affect Driving. Retrieved from http://www. dmv. org Rensink, R. A. , Oregan, J.

K. , & Clark, J. J. (1997). To see or not to see: The need for attention to perceive changes in scenes. Psychological Sciences, 8, 368-373. Risk and Perspective: Cell phones and driving: Weighing risk and benefits. Retrieved from http://www. hsph. harvard. edu. Should You Be Allowed To Use Your Cellular Phone While Driving? Retrieved from http://www. cato. org Simons, D. J. , & Chabris, C. F. (1999). Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. Perception, 280 1059-1074.