Saturday, July 25, 2009

Grab your cell phone: twit, facebook, text!!! Well, California DUI attorneys hear it's more dangerous to do those things than marginal DUI

Grab your cell phone: twit, facebook, text!!! Well, California DUI attorneys have been saying for a while it's more dangerous to do those things than drive with a reasonable amount of alcohol in your system when it does not impair your ability to drive.

Probably most people talk on their cell phones while driving. Those people threaten your safety as much as they would driving DUI.

“We’re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up,” says the Center for Auto Safety.

California State Senator Joe Simitian, “who tried from 2001 to 2005 to pass a hands-free cellphone law over objections of the cellphone industry, the unpublished research would have helped him convince his colleagues that cellphones cause serious (and deadly) distraction.” “Years went by when lives could have been saved,” but were not. California finally passed the hands-free law in 2006.

The safety issue with cell phone use while driving is obvious. Distracted drivers are dangerous drivers — and cell phones are pretty distracting. When talking on the cell, people go through all the physical motions and emotional states that come with being engaged in conversation. They laugh and grimace, briefly squeezing their eyes shut. They roll their eyes. They gesture with their hands. They become thoughtful, puzzled, angry — experiencing all the feelings that cause our attention to focus narrowly or drift widely. If the phone is juggled or dropped, they have to catch it or fetch it. The minds, bodies and mental energies of cell-using drivers are focused away from red lights, stop signs, stopped traffic, darting children and the like. The potential exists for an accident.

The problem becomes even more hazardous when drivers are dialing numbers, reading or sending text messages or doing anything else that requires looking down and picking out details from a tiny keypad or sunwashed screen. It takes a full five or ten seconds to punch in even a familiar phone number, longer to read or write a message and looking away from the road for that much time while traveling at any speed is foolish to the point of crazy. Yet people do it all the time.

Nor does using an earpiece or other device that leaves the hands free make the cell any safer. A suppressed report prepared by the federal Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2003 stated, “there are negligible differences in safety-relevant behavior and performance between using hand-held and hands-free communications devices while driving.”

Cell-distracted drivers are responsible for thousands of deaths, and hundreds of thousands of injuries, every year so the comparison to DUI / drunk driving is not an exaggeration.

“We found that people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit,” Frank Drews, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah, who conducted one of the studies, told the online magazine LiveScience in 2006.

But while public officials have taken strong action against drunk driving, they have, with a few exceptions, stubbornly ignored cell driving.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed a law banning the use of hand-held cells while driving in that city. Starting on Nov. 1, a violation will bring a $150 fine. But the law does not cover hands-free celling, which, as NHTSA found, is just as dangerous.

As for the federal government, the New York Times reported that the 2003 NHTSA report mentioned earlier was made public for the first time this week, after having been buried “because of larger political considerations,” specifically, opposition from the House Appropriations Committee.

Why would Congress not want a report detailing the dangers of driving-while-celling released to the public? So as not to offend voters who like using their cells when they drive. And so as not to offend the cell-phone industry, which, presumably donates as generously as any other large lobby group.

Not only was NHTSA’s report watered down, but the agency was blocked from conducting a proposed large-scale study to detail the scope of the cell-driving problem. It will overshadow DUI driving someday.