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Safety Guide for Using a Cell Phone While Driving

Many people use a cell phone while driving a motor vehicle. But it is a dangerous combination that can lead to a tragic accident.

The best way to avoid having an accident is not to use a cell phone while driving. Just don't do it. Period.

Use common sense. Safety first. Driving is your responsibility.

Risks and Consequences

Evidence is mounting of increased risk of having an accident when using a cell phone while driving. Why take a chance of injuring yourself, your loved ones or an innocent person.

Motor vehicle accidents are already the leading cause of death and injury in western society for people aged 16 to 44 years. Don't make it worse by adding another risk factor.

Using a cell phone is a distraction that can disturb or interrupt your concentration and impair your ability to drive safely. It is more of a distraction than simply adjusting your music player. It takes your attention and makes you less aware of the traffic situation around you.

  • Physical distraction – that requires you to have only one hand on the steering wheel, possibly for a long period of time. Or when you push the buttons on your handset.
  • Visual distraction – that takes your eyes off the road to look at the phone.
  • Audio distraction – that can make you miss sounds of warning or impending danger.
  • Emotional distraction. – Talking is a two-way communication. You can become emotional (angry, upset, worried, happy, sad), stressful, "animated" or contemplative (deep thought) while engaged and talking. Then you are not in the right "state of mind" to drive safely.

Save money – If you have an at-fault accident while using a cell phone, your automobile insurance rate could increase (possibly for several years) or you could pay for the damages. Will that phone call be worth it? Probably not. You could save a lot of money by not using your cell phone while driving.

Employer liability – Employers can be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while driving and having work-related conversations on cell phones.

The Law

Obey the local laws. If driving while using a cell phone is restricted, prohibited or banned by law in your area, do not do it.

Driving while using a cell phone is restricted or prohibited by law in the following countries (January 2008):

  • Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India , Iran, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan (Islamabad), Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. Most of these countries prohibit the use of handheld phones while driving. Several countries allow drivers to use cell phones but can be fined if they are involved in an accident while using the phone.
  • Drivers in the United Kingdom and Germany also can lose insurance coverage if they are involved in an accident while talking on the phone.
  • Newfoundland (Canada), New Delhi, Andhra Pradesh (India) , Mexico City (Mexico), Islamabad (Pakistan). Ban cell phone use while driving.

In the United States, driving while using a cell phone is restricted or prohibited by law in the following states (January 2008):

  • California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas Virginia, and West Virginia. Ban cell phone use by young drivers.
  • Connecticut, District of Columbia, New Jersey (hands-free allowed), New York (hands-free allowed), Virgin Islands (hands-free allowed), Washington (hands-free allowed) . Ban cell phone use while driving.
  • Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Ban bus drivers from using a cell phone while operating the bus.
  • Brooklyn (Ohio), Chicago (Illinois) and Santa Fe (New Mexico). Ban use of handheld cell phones while driving.

When Not to Use a Cell Phone While Driving

If there are no laws in your area prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving, many people will use them. Some people will use a cell phone even if there are laws prohibiting it. But there are situations or conditions when using a cell phone is more unsafe and greatly increases the risk of having a car accident.

Do NOT use a cell phone while driving:

  • After consuming alcohol or drugs. Any amount of consumption – regardless of the legal limit – reduces your ability to safely operate a vehicle. Don't multiply your risk of having an accident.
    • Impaired driving laws aside, if you are driving drunk, use all your willpower to avoid using your cell phone. If you don't, your life – and the lives of others – will be very close to severe injury or tragic death. It's your life: Don't lose it to utter stupidity.
  • During adverse driving conditions, such as rain, fog, snow, ice, night or dusk/dawn. Or at other times when the risk of having a motor vehicle accident is higher, such as driving along steep, uneven, broken, curving or winding roads.
  • When approaching an intersection or stop sign. You might not stop as necessary.
  • When driving in heavy, close or weaving traffic. Again, full attention on the road and traffic is required.
  • When driving along an undivided highway. If an accident does happen – such as a head-on collision – it is often much more severe because of the higher speeds.
  • When there is a commotion in the car, such as attending to children or pets.
  • When towing a trailer. The increased load and instability requires two hands on the steering wheel and full control of your vehicle.
  • If you hear an emergency vehicle (police, fire) approaching. You might have to quickly pull over, stop or avoid something.
  • If your vehicle is having a mechanical problem. You are already distracted and worried about operating your car. If your vehicle is about to break down, pull over and stop. Then phone for roadside assistance.
  • If your employer prohibits its workers from using cell phones while driving. Your employer could be held liable if you have an accident.
  • If you are a younger or less experienced driver. Or a person with a driver learner's permit (pre-license). These people already have an increased risk of having an accident while driving. Don't make a risky situation worse.
    • Note to parents – Your warning and advice to your new-driver children could save their lives.

How to Reduce the Risk of Accident

Reduce your risks of having an accident while driving by following these safety suggestions for using a cell phone:

  • Do not use your cell phone anytime while driving, if possible. It's common-sense safe driving. The more focused and attentive you are on driving, the less chance of accident.
  • If you need to make a call, pull over out of traffic in a safe place and stop driving. Then make your phone call.
  • If your phone rings while driving, first pull over and stop. Or answer the phone and say, "Let me pull over." Put down the phone and stop safely.
  • Turn off your phone while driving so you won't answer it if it rings.
  • Use "speed-dial" – Store (pre-program) your frequently used phone numbers on your handset. It is a less visual and physical distraction to push a few buttons than it is to look at the handset and push up to eleven or more buttons.
  • Put your phone handset in the trunk of your car. Then you will not have access to it while driving. This prevents you from changing your mind (about not using the phone) and making a phone call.
  • Use a hands-free cell phone car kit. It is a headset or car speakerphone and handset car-mount that enables you to operate the phone and keep two hands on the steering wheel.
  • Use a voice-activated cell phone kit. It enables you to speak commands to operate the phone. There is less fumbling with the handset to press buttons to send or receive a call.
  • Give the phone to someone else in the car to make or receive a call.
  • Talk for as short a time as possible. Make your point, request or answer to the other party as quickly and briefly as possible. Make a quick plan with the caller to continue the conversation at a later time.
  • If you do get "emotional" or stressful while talking on the phone, end the call and plan to resume the discussion later.

>> Use common sense. Safety first. Driving is your responsibility.

Go to Mobilook's Mobile Phone Safety and Security page.

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