Friday, July 14, 2006

Cell Phones and Handsfree and Whiskers on Kittens

All this blather about banning the use of handheld cell phones in cars has always baffled me. Frankly, I haven't really held a phone in my hand for more than a minute or two for about ten years if I could help it. I use headsets or earpieces in the car and at home. Not for safety, but for convenience and for comfort.

I can't understand why anyone would choose to hold a phone when they could just relax and chat freely and easily and have both hands free. And I confess, I have bluetooth headsets I like, and I occasionally use them at home and on the road, but I prefer the same wired set I've used for years. The sound quality is flawless, and it never needs charging. Because I tend to lose or break them, I buy them by the case whenever I find a deal on them.

This is all by way of saying that I never paid much attention when they banned talking on handheld cell phones, because I didn't care. I don't do it, and I never thought it was particularly dangerous. But now there are "studies" claiming that any talking on a cell phone -- even handsfree -- is as distracting as driving drunk. That any cell phone use in a car should be banned.

What?? Now they've gone too far.

Will someone please help me understand why my talking on a cell phone handsfree is any more distracting than my talking to the person in the seat next to me? I sometimes look at the person in the seat next to me. I never look at the phone when I'm talking to it.

(And by the way, I voice dial when I dial, and my phone is clipped to the dash so I don't have to look away from the road to flip it open to answer it, so there's no distraction on that front.)

What about eating in the car? I've seen people putting on makeup in the car or reading in the car. You want to ban the number one, primo, biggest distraction in the car? Make it unlawful to drive with children. Children in the car are a hundred times more distracting than cell phones. How many times have you seen a mother tending to a child in the back seat while driving full speed ahead? How many times have you been that mother?

I say let's make all children stay home until they're old enough to behave in the car. It would certainly make restaurants a lot more fun.

Meanwhile, let's not lose our minds about cell phones. There was even a quote in the paper about how it's worse to change CD's or work "those navigation systems." Uh... right... Easy to blame tech, as always. Those are both things you theoretically do once or twice a trip. Unlike dealing with wayward eyeliner or unruly children.

Before there were cell phones, bad drivers lit cigarettes to distract them. Bad drivers spill hot coffee to distract them. Bad drivers get distracted not by the distraction, but because they are bad drivers. A good driver can build a ship in a bottle while driving. Let's use some common sense, people.


Bg Porter said...

According to the articles that I've read on the cell phone distraction issue, your brain processes conversations differently when you're on the phone than you would when conversing in the same physical space. From my own experience (which matches yours), I'm not sure that I buy it. Based on my wife's driving whilst on the phone, I believe it wholeheartedly.

Michael Markowitz said...

LOL... Well, your lovely wife notwithstanding, my theory is simply that some people just find driving boring, or are unwilling to focus on a single task all at once. If they didn't have cell phones they'd find something else to occupy eighty percent of their mind, even daydreaming.

Me? I love to drive. A comfortable chair, all the air conditioning I like, and an iPod full of podcasts. If I didn't have to work, I could contentedly drive all day. And unlike everyone else, I don't even have a problem with traffic (unless I'm late)... For me, traffic is just driving with all the responsibility taken away and nothing but the relaxation left.