The use of cellular phones has skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 117 million subscribers in the United States as of July 1, 2001. This increase has been accompanied by an increase in the number of individuals concurrently driving and talking on the cell phone. Recent estimates suggest that cell phone users spend 60% of their time on a cell phone while driving a vehicle. You see people using cell phones in their cars every day as you make your commute to work.
Drivers who are talking on cell phones become engrossed in their conversations and consequently neglect their driving and often violate rules of the road resulting in traffic collisions. Just a few of the most common violations observed by peace officers include:
- Lane weaving
- Illegal/Unsafe lane changes
- Red light violations
- Failing to stop for stop signs
- Speeding or going so slow as to impede traffic
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study which revealed that people who use cellular phones while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a traffic collision than the average driver. The impairment factor was measured to be equivalent to that of a DUI driver with a blood alcohol content of .08%.
Driver impairment also includes cell phone users who use “hands free” or “voice activated dialing” systems. A July 2001 study by University of Utah, revealed that the driver’s loss of concentration, not the operation of the phone is what makes its use while driving so dangerous. One can argue that eating while driving, putting on make-up, changing the radio station or placing a compact disc in your player can pose the same threat. This is true. All of these activities require that you take your eyes off the road momentarily. Our department recommends that you do none of the above while your vehicle is in motion. Take the time to pull to a place of safety before you use your cell phone, or other device, which would distract your attention from the road.
In fact, in California, Section 22350 of the Vehicle Code requires persons to operate a motor vehicle with due regard for traffic, visibility and speed. Even the Department of Motor Vehicle Handbook has a section dedicated to the use of cellular phones and driving The California Highway Patrol and the Los Banos Police Department recommends common sense in the use of cellular phones, and we urge users to familiarize themselves with their cellular telephone features and follow these tips:
- If possible, dial while the car is not in motion, such as at a traffic light or stop sign
- Learn to operate the phone without looking at it
- Never allow a phone conversation to distract you from driving
- Keep calls brief While talking, keep your head up and your eyes on the road, with frequent checks of side and rearview mirrors
- Use a hands-free device when available
- Pay attention to your number one priority – driving safely