Smart Call Is Hang It Up While Driving

More and more it’s looking like the correct decision is this: Avoid talking on a cell phone and driving at the same time. Texting and driving? You’re literally playing with your life — and the lives of others.

You’d think the numbers alone would be enough to discourage us from these types of behaviors:

In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated 448,000 were injured in vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving, the ?National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported.

The No. 1 cause of distracted driving was cell phone usage, the administration’s statistics showed.

If those numbers don’t scare you, these ones should: $159 and $279. The first number is what you’ll pay for a first-time violation. The second is for subsequent violations.

What’s even more important to note is that the Redding Police Department just issued a press release saying that it’s partnering with the California Highway Patrol to increase enforcement on distracted driving for April — California Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

According to the press release, drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. It’s important to remember that holding a cell phone in your hand and talking (even if on speaker phone) constitutes a violation.

Texting and driving is always a violation. Also, juveniles are not allowed to drive and use a cell phone, whether they use a hands-free system or not.

All that being said, it’s apparent that the urge to drive and talk on a cell phone at the same time is extremely strong. It seems like a good way to save time and conduct important business while heading across town. But taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds or the mental distraction of a phone conversation can be enough to cause a crash.

“In the time it takes to look down for that number, the distance you’re going to cover can be very significant,” said Redding police officer Boun Kongkeoviman, who had already written two tickets for improper cell phone usage within a few hours of his shift on Thursday. “We’re talking about a very heavy automobile going at a high rate of speed.”

Just to make a simple turn while driving requires a large amount of awareness, including watching for traffic and pedestrians, checking mirrors and signaling, Konkeoviman said.

“If you’re on the phone worried about the baby crying at home or something, you can be so engrossed in the conversation that you don’t see that pedestrian or car coming out or brake lamp in front of you,” he said. “You already have to be doing a lot of multi-tasking to operate a vehicle.”

The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers in 2009 was the under-20 crowd. Some 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.

According to the Redding Police, using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent, which could result in a DUI arrest.

Take the advice of police, or heck, just take the advice of Santa Cruz songwriter Michael Gaither: Hang it up! 

Click here and you might even listen on your cell phone: 05 Hang It Up. But please, pull over first.

Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and also a songwriter and member of the Muletown String Band. He lives in Redding. You may e-mail Jim at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Jim Dyar

is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com

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