After watching a driver blithely drive down the wrong way on a
one-way street while said driver was also talking on the phone, leads me to believe people aren’t as multifunctional as they would like to believe.
So it is with grim terror that I report San Francisco just passed a law requiring hands-free use of mobile devices for drivers.
Terror because this law will do nothing to curb the abuse of talking on the phone while driving, the main culprit behind accidents involving cell phone use in cars, and will in fact encourage fools to keep on talking while driving with the results like the one I witnessed this week on the one way street.
The idea that driving and talking no matter how it is done distracts a driver from good driving is not just in my head. There is plenty of research to back this up. In fact, I wrote a column way back in August 2001 about this very subject. Here’s the link and a few excerpts.
According to Dr. Marcel Just, at the time co-director for the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging in the psychology department at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh and his team said that when the brain is asked to divide its time between two high-level tasks, it gives each task less attention than if it had to do the tasks one at a time, according to Just.
"It must be made clear that demanding driving can't be safely time-shared with other tasks," Just said.
Less attention translates into lower performance levels. When volunteers in the study were asked to simultaneously answer
true-false questions while judging the similarity between
three-dimensional objects, both their reaction times and error levels went up.
As cell phone usage in cars increases, along with iPods, and who knows what else, you can expect more not fewer accidents as the Public Policy Institute of California claims.
The question is, I suppose, does this law make it safer to use a cell phone while driving, or will it encourage those who may have been reluctant to use a cell phone, to start using one, thus increasing the overall number of accidents caused by cell phone usage in a car?
I don’t know about you but the heck with gas guzzling and conservation I’m going to buy a Hummer.