Cell phones began with only a select few could afford a cell phone. Today with most Americans owning cell phones we must look at the benefits and downfalls of cellular technology. The issue of driving while dialing brings up the most controversy. The legislation in place to govern the use of cellular phones in certain cities is justified, but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
The cell phone
has been around since the fifties when they first had the idea from using CB radio frequencies. AT&T was the first to bring about the technology back in the late forties and early fifties. The FCC regulated all radio frequencies broadcast and limited AT&T to twenty-three phone calls simultaneously in the same service area. In the seventies the FCC later allowed more use of the radio waves. In the late seventies the first trials were made in Chicago with 2000 initial customers (Bellis 1). In the 1987 cellular customers hit one million. Today one half of the people living in the United States own a cell phone.
It is true that drivers can be clearly distracted from the road from cellular phones. Drivers will have them in a purse in the backseat or in an inaccessible pocket that they will be startled to get to when someone calls. Drivers will struggle to get to the phone in a timely manner and that becomes their priority instead of the road in front of them. Drivers may swerve or cut off another driver in while trying to answer a cell phone or trying dialing a ten digit telephone number. An Ohio insurance company took a poll of eight hundred drivers. The results of the poll are as follows: 43% said they had accelerated on at least one occasion while using their mobile phone; 23% said they had tailgated; 18% said they had cut someone off; 10% ran a red light; and 41% said they had accelerated to get away from someone else in another vehicle on a mobile phone (Ropeik 16). It is obvious that cell phones are a distraction but are the distractions caused by cell phones outweighed by the security and added convenience of a cell phone?
There are hundreds of benefits from cellular phones. The convenience more than anything is what appeals to most users. Cell phones can be used for work or for personal use. Businessmen and women will use them to call clients and parents will use them to check on the babysitter. With the many cellular providers out the cost to use a cell phone is going way down. Most people are going from using conventional land line phones to using strictly cellular phones. With the wide spread availability of cell phones the controversy of using a cell phone while driving becomes an issue. The number of drivers that have a cell phone is staggering, “54 percent of all drivers have access to phones in their vehicles, 73 percent of whom use them at least occasion while driving, and 70 percent of all calls made from cell phones are made from the road (Curry 29). It seems that more often than not when you see a driver cut you off in front of you or someone flying off an on ramp that he is on the phone. Cell phones have become commonplace in today’s world. There are great advantages to carrying a cellular phone in the car. Many parents will give phones to their children to give an added sense of security. Professionals will use them to have the mobility of their office in their cars. Businessmen and women will be able to make use of otherwise wasted time in the car by conducing simple and short conversations in the car that they would normally spend time in the office doing. The lifesaver feature of the cell phone is to call for assistance in the event you have car trouble or if you need directions while driving. The feature of a cell phone that saves lives is that more than 118,000 phone calls are made to 911 from cellular phones each day (Curry 32).This is a great benefit to drivers to be able to call for help within seconds of an accident instead of walking to a nearby home or office to call for help. These valuable seconds could make the difference in getting help in a serous accident. These benefits far outweigh the distraction caused by a cell phone.
It is true that cellular phones are a distraction to drivers, but what is not a distraction. Accidents cause by driver distractions account for about 30% of all accidents on the road (Ropeik 14). Cellular phones account for a small percentage of these accidents. Many drivers will be distracted from other things such as their hamburger and fries from McDonalds, women putting on makeup, men shaving on their way to work, or searching for that new CD and trying to take the old CD out of the huge jukebox that people have in the dashboard of their cars nowadays. The cell phone was thought to be a distraction since drivers would dial while in heavy traffic, or search for their phone under their seat. Phone manufactures responded by creating hands-free devices and including voice activated dialing so that the driver would not have to hold the phone or try and dial a number. They wanted drivers to have their hands on the steering wheel, not on the phone. With all of the advanced features on today’s cell phones it seems that the phone is not the distraction to drivers, it is the conversation they are engaged in. Drivers will get caught up in a conversation and will take their mind off of the road. It is found that drivers will be more distracted by a cell phone conversation than a conversation with the passengers in the vehicle (Ropeik 14). Drivers will get in heated conversations with their boyfriend or girlfriend. This will cause the driver to pay more attention to the person on the phone instead of the hundreds of drivers on the roadways with him or her. This distraction is much more dangerous on our roadways than screaming children or fumbling with changing a CD. The main difference is that it takes maybe a minute or two to change a CD and normally only a few more minutes to calm screaming children. A stressful conversation can last much longer and the anxiety caused from the conversation can cause the driver to become dangerous on the road.
Drivers simply need to be smart about using cell phones on the road. They need to take precautions and simple common sense when using cellular phones so that they are not endangering themselves or anyone else. Take simple precautions such as: using a hands-free kit to keep both hands on the steering wheel; if the call is for a passenger give the phone to the passenger instead of trying to be a mediator; turn off your phone while driving let your caller id tell you who is calling and call them back later; let your voice mail take messages; don’t carry a conversation while in heavy traffic or in congested areas; and most importantly do not carry emotional or stressful conversations while driving (Moore 3). If drivers will just use more common sense when they do things it will be much simpler for everyone. Drivers should be able to use cell phones in cars without legislation
stopping their use. If drivers abuse cellular phones the states will step in and govern and regulate their use.
Drivers need to speak out and stop legislation that will ban cell phone use
while driving. Cell phone use if used for simple conversations is no more distracting than changing the radio station or turning on the windshield wipers. In the 1930’s when AM radios were installed in cars people thought that drivers will have their attention on the radio shows instead of the road, but again the benefits far outweighed the disadvantages and every car on the road today has a radio. This is the same with cell phones in the car.
Bellis, Mary. Selling the Cell Phone, Part I: History of the Cell Phone. About.com
9 Sept. 2003.
Curry, David G. “In-Vehicle Cell Phones: Fetal Distraction, Real or potential
problem?” Professional Safety. March 2002: 28-33
Moore, Larry R. “The Impact of cell phones on Driver Safety.” Professional
Safety. Jan 2001: 30-33
Ropeik, David. “Cell phones and Driving: How Risky?” Consumers Research
Magazine. Jan 2003: 14-17.