In 1998 there were 60 million cell phone subscribers. Many consumers purchase cell phones to help them feel safer while driving.
Unfortunately, like any product, when not used properly, a cell phone can be dangerous.
As the number of cell phones in use has increased, so have accidents associated with cell phone use. People with a cell phone have a 34% higher risk of having a collision, according to a study conducted by the National Public Service Research Institute for the American Automobile Association.
Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that drivers who use a cell phone while they operate a vehicle are at the same risk of having an accident as a person who is slightly drunk.
Obviously cell phones in cars have tremendous benefits as well as risks. When using a cell phone, you should use it safely. Here are what several safety experts recommend:
- Know when to use the cell phone. If you must dial and drive, wait until you stop at a light or pull off the road.
- Take advantage of newer features on cell phones. Voice-activated dialing means you don't have to tie up both hands and look down while you punch numbers. Speed dialing reduces the numbers you have to dial. It allows users to program frequently used numbers into the phone, reducing distraction time. Voice mail will also allow you to avoid having to miss phone calls during inopportune times, such as 5:00 rush hour.
- Use speaker phones. Speaker phones and headsets offer hands free operation which allows the driver to use their cell phone without taking their hands off the wheel.
- Know when to hang up. If the call is getting emotional or intense, get off the phone or get off the road. Having an argument with a loved one, negotiating a big deal, or trying to close a large sale should not be done on a highway.
Companies that provide cell phones to their employees have the responsibility to see that their employees use their cell phones responsibly. Providing their employees with current cell phones that have many timesaving functions can increase safety. Setting a strict policy on the length of cell phone calls and to whom the driver can make or receive cell phone calls may also reduce accidents.