Monday, July 19, 2010

Keep Your Car and Mind in Gear

Hardly a day passes without some new report or study being released about the dangers of using mobile phones while driving. While texting seems to get most of the headlines, just talking on the phone while driving can be quite distracting. In the spirit of not throwing the first stone, I will admit to taking a call now and then while behind the wheel. I do try to make them brief but that is really not much of an excuse.

Many phones today have what is called “Bluetooth” technology. This allows for hands free operation either by using a wireless earpiece or an interface with your car’s radio. Both allow you to keep your hands on the wheel and at least potentially keep your mind on driving. Unfortunately, you can keep your hands on the wheel but your mind still is distracted.

I give a wide berth to drivers I observe to be deep in conversation. Several times I have followed cars from downtown Cincinnati all the way to Harrison with the driver deep in conversation, hands gesturing, head bobbing, car drifting right and left.

It is not just the highway where the danger lurks. I regularly jog over the lunch hour in downtown Cincinnati and Over the Rhine. I have lost count of the times that I have the right of way with the walk signal at an intersection only to have a driver look right through me and make a right turn into my path. Cell phone in hand, mouth in gear, brain somewhere else.

It is most likely not practical to think that all of us will check our phones at the front car door. There are some things that you can do to lessen the distraction.

Keep the conversation short. “Let me call you back” is an OK response. Never reach for that pen. Most phones record the number of the incoming caller. I won’t even mention texting. If you find yourself sending or reading text messages while driving, consider having your head examined by a professional ASAP.

Remember, just because you are not holding the phone in your hand does not mean that you are not distracted. Remember that thought the next time you are driving home from Cincinnati to Harrison on I-74 and you find that your next exit is Batesville-Oldenberg. “Let me call you back!”

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