Driving and dialing don't mix

Cell phones have been an integral part of our lives and has been used as a safety precaution but nowadays it has transitioned to a communication device. I personally find that driving while being on the phone is distracting and potentially a dangerous activity when operating a vehicle that weighs more than 2000 lbs. It is imperative that you have 100% of your focus on the road and your surroundings as it creates a risk, largely due to the conversation that is involved.

In general, driving is a complex task that requires the full attention of the individual. Novice drivers must first learn how to operate a vehicle safely, before the added challenges of an unnecessary distraction. Using and talking on a cellular phone requires a large amount of attention and can be a contributing factor to accidents. The potential for injury, and property damage to other vehicles should be a concern for drivers. Risk occurs when you are thinking about the conversation you are having in addition to the physical distraction of handling or looking at the device. Stressful, emotional or important conversations are even more distracting. They need to put the phone down and focus because the brain really can’t do everything at once. As a driver, you are limited and it slows down your response time.

Distracted drivers react more slowly to sudden traffic conditions or events. They fail more often to recognize potential hazards such as pedestrians or bicycles in the road. They decrease their margin of safety leading them to take risks that they might not otherwise take.

While a driver’s attention is drawn away from the road and the surrounding environment, the result could be a delayed reaction to a hazard, or possibly a failure to detect it at all. All of these are common factors associated with vehicle crashes. Driver focus is critical to anticipating and avoiding collisions.

Performing a cognitive task while driving produces changes in the drivers’ visual behavior, vehicle control such as braking behavior, and subjective assessments of workload, safety, and distraction.

A driver’s age, experience, daytime sleepiness ratings and personality can make significant differences in a driver’s involvement in crashes and near-crashes. Talking on a cell phone behind the wheel is more dangerous than driving drunk. And it makes no difference whether the phone is hand-held or used hands-free. Cell phone conversation draws attention away from the processing of the visual environment. The result only ends up in more rear-end collisions and the risk of any injuries or worse, even death is even higher.

Drivers need to keep their eyes on the road, and their minds on driving. There are several factors that could distract a driver such as an outside person or object, the radio, other passengers in the vehicle, a moving object, adjusting vehicle controls, eating and drinking, smoking and a cell phone. And drivers who cause a collision while using a cell phone or who are observed driving unsafely while using the device can be charged under a number of other provincial or federal laws, including but not limited to dangerous driving, careless driving and criminal negligence. So drivers need to pay attention and aware of changing driving conditions.

Cellphone usage is part of the broader problem of driver distraction and is often signled out for enforcement and legislative attention. This is perhaps because the use of cell phones is more visible than other forms of distraction. Hands-free does not mean risk-free. Banning the use of a hand-held cell phone while driving merely replaces one distraction for another. Substituting a hands-free for a hand-held device is not a good first step because it does not really address the cognitive distraction of talking on a cell phone, or in some cases the physical distractions of dialing or answering the phone.

Restricting the use of electronic devices is one more safety precaution to ensure our sons and daughters become safe drivers while we create a generation of motorists that understand the risk of distractions. The most important step is raising awareness about the dangers of all distractions. In conclusion, my advice is to pull over and answer the phone if you really need to. Better yet – ignore any calls you get while driving. Driving and dialing just don’t mix.

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