Feb 112007
Authors: Luci StorelliCastro

While on a brief visit to New York during Thanksgiving Break last year, I was delightfully surprised to see that New Yorkers are, with a few exceptions, especially good drivers. Of course, there are several reasons explaining this phenomenon, not least of which is the fact that New Yorkers can be really scary when mad. Experience dictates that one ought to drive in a manner that will not likely infuriate the Italian mob boss driving in a tinted-windowed Cadillac.

More significantly, though – as of November 2001, the state of New York implemented a law banning the use of cell phones while driving. New York joins a handful of other states that have either enforced partial or comprehensive laws restricting cell phone use in cars. However, a majority of states, including Colorado, still have not placed any sort of restrictions on cell phone usage.

From a global standpoint, the United States is one of the few countries that has yet to enforce a broad-based ban on cell phone use while driving. In many countries, talking on cell phones while behind the wheel constitutes a serious crime. For example, according to www.cellular-news.com, in Poland one could be fined $1,000. As for Ireland, a third offense for driving and talking on the phone could lead to up to three months in prison.

Prison terms and huge fines? What’s wrong with these countries? What did cell phone drivers ever do to them?

Well, for starters, policy-makers in these countries have probably read the studies indicating that people who operate vehicles while talking on the phone are a blatant safety hazard.

In a report by ABC News, psychologist Steve Yantis of Johns Hopkins University emphasized that there are limitations to a person’s multitasking abilities. Yantis, who has been researching brains through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging, found that the part of the brain responsible for vision becomes less active when people concentrate on listening.

Furthermore, it should be noted that talking on a cell phone while driving is a particularly distracting activity. Assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University, Mei-Ching Lien, informed Science Daily that talking on the phone while driving “requires a certain amount of thought and preparation. It’s actually quite different than listening to the radio, where you don’t need to respond.” Lien added that talking on the phone does not even compare to talking to a passenger because passengers are in a position of being aware of road conditions, whereas the person on the other line is not.

Unsurprisingly, the consequence of driving while talking on the phone is careless driving, which puts people and even buildings at risk. Earlier this year, in fact, The Decatur Daily reported that a woman plowed into Lindsay Lane Baptist Church in Alabama while reaching to pick up her cell phone.

Obviously, there is no place on earth safe enough when a cell phone driver rounds the corner, sidewalks and Baptist churches included.

Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior political science and philosophy major. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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