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Driving and jiving

By George S. Kulas
web posted March 5, 2007

I couldn't understand why the "idiot" behind me kept blasting his horn. Every few seconds another honk. I was in the center lane minding my own business cruising down a city street with my car windows down on a beautiful day last fall. I was chatting with my wife on my cell phone and now one of my favorite songs "Jive Talkin" by the Bee Gees was playing on the car radio.

Suddenly, the "idiot", who was changing my good mood, pulled up along side me in the lane to my right. About the same time we came to a stop at a red light. The "idiot" rolled down his window and bellowed, "you idiot turn off your blinker it's been on for 10 blocks. Hang up and drive." "I heard that", my wife yelled. "I thought you said you pulled over." Click!

Once again I had turned out to be the "idiot". It was just another time I was driving recklessly because I was "jive talkin" on my cell phone while driving. Fortunately, my recklessness that day only involved a blinker. Tragically, for many others their recklessness while driving and jiving turns into much worse.

According to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times, in 2001 at least 4,699 reported accidents in California were blamed on drivers using cell phones. In those crashes 31 people were killed and 2,786 were injured. California will now ban the use of hand held cell phones while driving effective July 1, 2008. It is joining Washington D.C., New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who have already passed similar bans.

Each year approximately 42,000 people die in auto accidents in the United States. While drunk drivers account for many of those fatalities some studies have concluded that cell phone users are just as dangerous.

Direct Line, England's leading insurer, commissioned a study at the Transport Research Laboratory. Researches tested how driving was impaired by talking on a hand held mobile phone and when drivers had consumed enough alcohol to be above the legal drink-drive limit. On average the reaction times were 30 percent slower when talking on a hand held mobile phone compared to being drunk and driving. On average it took hand held mobile phone users half a second longer to react while driving than normal sober drivers. At 70 mph, this half-second difference equates to traveling an additional 46 feet before reacting to a road hazard.

Another study was headed by University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer. Strayer says of cell phone usage by young drivers, "It's like instantly aging a large number of drivers. If you put a 20-year old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, their reaction times are the same as a 70-year old driver who is not using a cell phone."

In a previous study professor Strayer and his colleagues echoed the findings of the England study concluding that chatty drivers are less adept than drunken drivers with blood alcohol levels exceeding 0.08.

The next time you see a reckless inattentive motorist, like myself, driving while jiving on his/her cell phone be as careful as you would around a drunk driver. If the driver and jiver is drunk as well it could be double trouble after double bubble. A toxic blend for the "last call." Crash! ESR

George S. Kulas served as a Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army before he retired.


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