by Max Brantley
It was a morning like any other. A weaving car driving at erratic speeds bollixed up Cantrell Road traffiic flow. The driver was, naturally, gassing nonstop on a phone plastered to her ear.
So I was in a receptive mood for one of busy blogger Robbie Wills' dispatches. The House speaker noted that Arkansas has a new law that prohibits texting while driving. But it won't be possible to issue tickets until Oct. 1.
Meanwhile, he encourages people to not use phones of any kind while driving. He cited an article in Governing magazine. "Hands-free" laws are no cure for distracted phone user/drivers, research suggests.
What studies have found, however, is that the phone conversation itself is a distraction. In 2006, researchers at the University of Utah published a study that used a driving simulator. They found no difference in driving performance between people using hand-held and hands-free phones. Talking on a phone in either manner made drivers more likely to get into a rear-end collision than those who were legally drunk.
A study from Carnegie Mellon University in 2008 used brain imaging to look at what happens when drivers talk on the phone. Researchers found that simply listening to a cell phone conversation reduces the amount of brain activity used for driving by 37 percent. Still another study, from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, placed cameras inside 100 cars. Although the study didn’t directly measure the risks of hand-held versus hands-free, it found that merely dialing a cell phone tripled the risk of getting into an accident. Just talking on a phone was distracting enough to increase the risk of having an accident by a factor of 1.3
Hang 'em up, dammit.