Everyone knows the ill effects of "secondhand smoke." Now society is tipping to the ill effects of "secondhand cell phone use." Statistics have shown that driving and dialing can be dangerous, but a new study out of the University of Utah shows that the people who insist on talking on the phone while they drive cost the motorists around them more than their security. They are costing other commuters time and money.
The study shows that motoring cell phoners drive slower on the freeway, pass slow-moving vehicles less often and spend more time en route to their destinations. Other surveys have shown that 10 percent of all the people driving at any given time are talking on their phones. And though using them while driving may not be the most dangerous or time-stealing practice on the highway, the tremendous saturation of the roads with cell phone users magnifies the drawbacks and turns the devices into a problem.
Multitasking is a wonderful skill. But when performing two tasks at the same time makes a person inadequate at both, it's time to rethink behavior.
Already, members of society are beginning to "shame" those who drive and talk by putting bumper stickers on their cars ridiculing the practice, or mouthing nasty comments as they pass cell phone talkers. Eventually, all that "shunning" may lead to either better behavior by motorists or more regulations that put even tougher "time and place" restrictions on cell phone use.
The former would be preferable.
But, as with tobacco, the latter may be necessary.
For, like it or not, there is an addictive quality to using cell phones. Many teens walk around with the things in their hands for days at a time. Many adults almost go into withdrawal when their cell phones are taken away.
Currently, driving and dialing isn't a crime. But as more and more studies emerge that show cell phone use on the freeway is not only a true threat to public safety but a form of "stealing" the time and money of other motorists, more laws may be needed on the books.