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Cell phone drivers vs. drunk drivers

In a head-to-head collision, they both lose. Our holiday weekend advice: hang up or take the bus.
 
 
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I was going to write something cynical about the Supreme Court's rebuke of the Bush administration's secret military tribunals, but because it's the last even slightly progressive thing we're likely to hear from the Court in a long time, and because it's a long weekend (for many), I'll focus on safety instead:

Whatever you do this Fourth of July, whether it be light fireworks, drink, or barbque with flaming coals, just don't talk on your cell phone and drive.

A new study that drviing while talking on your cell phone is as dangerous, if not more so, than drinking (at .08 blood alcohol level) and driving, whether or not you use one of those hands-free devices.

To the relatively small sample size of the study (40 people), I can add my own anectodal experience. I was hit head on by someone who was talking on her cell phone while attempting an illegal left turn. Even when the driver smashed into my car in the middle of the intersection, totaling both my car and hers, she never got off her phone. It was only when the police came (and pried me out of my car) and requested that she hang up that she did so. And no, it wasn't an emergency call.

But whose to blame for these accidents? Laws that say it's ok to yak and drive? The cell-phones themselves? Certainly not, says an "industry spokesman" who sounds a hell of a lot like the gun lobby:

An industry spokesman said cell phones don't cause accidents, people do.

"If cell phones were truly the culprit some studies make them out to be, it's only logical that we'd see a huge spike in the number of accidents [since their introduction]," said John Walls, a vice president at the industry group, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association-The Wireless Association. "To the contrary, we've experienced a decline in accidents, and an even more impressive decline in the accident rate per million miles driven," he said.

It's not clear where he's getting his statistics about the decline in accidents and how much, if any, can be linked to cell phone use. Your best bet is still to tay off the phone while driving, or better yet, take public transportation. There are no reports of increased bus accidents while passengers yak on their phones. Not yet, anyway.

Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.