Recently, in my home state of NJ, police received the authority to stop and fine motorists for using hand-held cell phones while they drive. To get us all on the same page, the blinking roadside signs that usually alert us with messages such as "Right Lane Closed Ahead" or "Merge Left Now" were changed to "Put the phone down now" and "Hang up the call or get a $200 fine." (I'm not kidding.)
Believe me, I have put the phone down. Or at least, on the passenger seat. Those of you who have read my past posts know about my latest addiction to my Bluetooth headset. Well, of course, nothing is simple anymore. And, the very same week our paper's headline read, "Statistics show hands-free doesn't mean accident-free."
Well, OK. Anyone who has lived or worked in NJ knows that having an accident free driving career is about the same as winning the lottery. With that said, days after going "hands-free" we had spokespeople for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety observing that there is no difference in the level of distraction between using hand-held and hands-free phones. Well this may be true about the "level of distraction," but I have to wonder, have they ever seen a person at a busy intersection making a turn across traffic with a phone held to his or her ear?
According to the Newark Star Ledger, NJ police reported 3,580 accidents statewide involving cell phones in 2006, with 50% of these being hands free. And, although police have been noting cell phone use in accident reports in NJ since 2001, I have to wonder how many admit to using the phone during an accidentLogic tells me that hands-free just has to be safer. It just has to be, right?