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Death on the highways: Texting, twittering and calling

By dcuff
Saturday, September 26th, 2009 at 12:35 pm in Buses, driving, hands-free driving, Safety, trucks.

The evidence keeps piling up  – along with dead and mangled bodies – that use of electronic communications devices while driving is taking a heavy toll. But it’s not like Americans are going to go back to the days of pulling off the road to make calls from a phone booth.

So what are the best actions for drivers and lawmakers to take to minimize the carnage from use of cell phone calls, texts and tweets on the highways?   A research firm reported that one in 10 Twitter users admits they have tweeted while they were behind the wheel. And 29 percent of the interviewees said they’ve used Twitter from a car at some point in the past. Yikes.

And a separate insurance company study found that one in five cell phone users sent text messages while driving.

Yikes.  That’s a scary – considering a driver must look away from the road and tap out messages while he’s zooming down the road.

Several states  – including California  – have banned texting while driving, but most states have not.

The Obama administration is steping into the debate over electronic devices by considering whether to adopt a rule banning truck and bus drivers from talking on the cell phone while driving. Such a ban was recommended in 2004 by the National Safety Transportation Board after a case which a bus driver carrying students to Washington D.C. become so engrossed in a cell phone conversation that he failed to notice warning signs that an upcoming bridge was 2 feet lower than his vehicle height.

Eleven people were injured when the bus slammed into the underside of the bridge, peelng off the top of the bus like a can opener. 

At least, no one was killed then. In 2003, the The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis estimated that 2,300 people a year die in crashes related to cell phone use.

Congress is trying to get into the act. Legislation in the Senate would cut federal transportation money to states unless they banned texting while driving.

California requires that drivers making cell phone calls must use hands-free devices. You don’t have to look far to see violators, though.

As for me personally, I have found that a speaker attached to a car visor works best for me as a hands-free device. The visor-mounted device costs more than $100, but it’s hard to lose – unlike the ear piece sound devices.    


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